Greece should seize Germany’s botched offer of a velvet Grexit

The Versailles terms imposed on Germany in 1919 were vindictive and narrow-minded, but not beyond reach. Greece is being told to do the impossible.

One day we will learn the full story of what went on at the top levels of the German government before the villenage of Greece last weekend.

We already know that the EMU accord – if that is the right word – is an economic and diplomatic fiasco of the first order. It does serious damage to the moral credibility of the EU but resolves nothing.

There is not the slightest chance that Greece will be able to stabilize its debt and return to viability under the Carthaginian settlement imposed on Alexis Tsipras – after 17 hours of psychological “water-boarding”, as one EU official put it.

The latest paper by the International Monetary Fund has torn away the fig-leaf. The country needs a 30-year moratorium on debt payments and probably outright subsidies to recover from the devastation of the past six years.

Instead it gets pro-cyclical fiscal contraction of 2pc of GDP by next year.

Some are already comparing the terms to the Versailles Treaty but this does not quite capture the depravity of it. The demands imposed on Germany in 1919 were certainly vindictive and narrow-minded – as Keynes rightly alleged – but they were not, on the face of it, beyond reach.

France was forced to pay reparations after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 that were roughly equivalent to Versailles, albeit in very different circumstances. It dutifully did so, while plotting revenge.

What Greece is being asked to do is scientifically impossible. Almost everybody involved in the talks knows this. Yet the lie goes on because the dysfunctional nature of EMU politics and governance makes it impossible to come clean. The country is dishonestly kept in a permanent state of crisis.

Lees deze column van Ambrose Evans-Pritchard verder op The Telegraph

Yanis Varoufakis: We were set up

In his first interview since resigning, Greece’s former Finance Minister says the Eurogroup is “completely and utterly” controlled by Germany, Greece was “set up” and last week’s referendum was wasted.

Greece has finally reached an agreement with its creditors. The specifics have not yet been published, but it is clear that the deal signed is more punitive and demanding than the one that its government has spent the past five months desperately trying to resist.

The accord follows 48 hours in which Germany demanded control of Greece’s finances or its withdrawal from the euro. Many observers across Europe were stunned by the move. Yanis Varoufakis was not. When I spoke with Greece’s former finance minister last week, I asked him whether any deal struck in the days ahead would be good for his country.

“If anything it will be worse,” he said. “I trust and hope that our government will insist on debt restructuring, but I can’t see how the German finance minister [Wolfgang Schäuble] is ever going to sign up to this. If he does, it will be a miracle.”

It’s a miracle the Greek people are likely to be waiting for a long time for. On Friday night, when Greece’s parliament agreed to an austerity programme that voters had overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum five days earlier, a deal seemed imminent. A partial write-off of its debt owed to the so-called “Troika” – the IMF, the European Central bank and the European Commission – was unlikely but possible. Now, despite its government’s capitulation, Greece has no debt relief and may yet be thrown out of the Eurozone.

Varoufakis, who resigned a week ago, has been criticised for not signing an agreement sooner, but he said the deal that Greece was offered was not made in good faith – or even one that the Troika wanted completed. In an hour-long telephone interview with the New Statesman, he called the creditors’ proposals – those agreed to by the Athens government on Friday night, which now seem somehow generous – “absolutely impossible, totally non-viable and toxic …[they were] the kind of proposals you present to another side when you don’t want an agreement.”

Varoufakis added: “This country must stop extending and pretending, we must stop taking on new loans pretending that we’ve solved the problem, when we haven’t; when we have made our debt even less sustainable on condition of further austerity that even further shrinks the economy; and shifts the burden further onto the have-nots, creating a humanitarian crisis.”

Lees het interview met Yanis Varoufakis verder op The New Statesman >>>

Akkoord over Griekenland

De regeringsleiders van de eurolanden hebben een akkoord bereikt over een nieuw noodpakket voor Griekenland. De vergadering in Brussel duurde 17 uur, en kwam vanmorgen rond 8.30 uur tot een eind. ‘Je zou kunnen zeggen dat we een ‘agreement’ hebben’, zei EU-president Donald Tusk tijdens een persconferentie over de deal.

Het akkoord dat is bereikt, vraagt striktere bezuinigingsmaatregelen van de Grieken dan de voorstellen die ze vorige week nog afwezen in een referendum. In dit geval staat er echter wel een nieuw steunprogramma tegenover.

Tsipras moet uiterlijk woensdag een aantal hervormingen door het Griekse parlement loodsen, onder meer van de pensioenen en de btw. Bovendien moet Athene exacter aangeven wanneer bepaalde hervormingen zullen worden geïmplementeerd.

Ook moet werk worden gemaakt van het privatiseren van Griekse overheidsbezittingen. Die bezittingen komen in een fonds dat onder toezicht wordt gesteld van een onafhankelijke instelling. Aanvankelijk zou het toezicht vanuit Luxemburg worden geregeld, maar de locatie van de toezichthouder wordt toch Athene.

Het privatiseringsfonds was een heikel punt, Tsipras was lang tegen zo’n fonds. Volgens Eurogroep-voorzitter Dijsselbloem zou de privatisering 50 miljard moeten opleveren, waarmee een deel van de Griekse schulden kan worden afbetaald.

Volgens berekeningen van de geldschieters (IMF, ECB, eurolanden) heeft Griekenland tussen de 82 en 86 miljard euro nodig, waarvan een flink deel (tot 25 miljard) voor het versterken van de Griekse banken.

Lees verder op de Volkskrant >>>

Tsipras resists key bailout measures after 15 hours of talks

Talks stalling on two points: IMF involvement in a new three-year bailout and a German demand for Greece to give up €50bn in public assets as collateral.

A marathon overnight negotiation between Greece and its creditors remained unresolved on Monday morning after European leaders confronted Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, with a package of austerity measures which entailed a surrender of fiscal sovereignty.

A weekend of high tension that threatened to break Europe in two climaxed on Sunday at a summit of eurozone leaders in Brussels where the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, François Hollande, presented Tsipras with an ultimatum.

The ultimatum – debated over more than 15 hours – entailed a series of draconian measures as the price of avoiding financial collapse and being ejected from the single currency bloc.

Tsipras acquiesced in most of the fiscal rigour demanded of him in four pages of summary instructions drafted by eurozone finance ministers.

But as Monday morning broke over Brussels, he was still resisting the creditors’ demands on two key points: on having the International Monetary Fund (IMF) involved in a proposed new three-year bailout, and on a controversial German demand for Greece to park €50bn (£36bn) in assets outside Greece, probably in Luxembourg, to serve as collateral for fresh loans and to provide privatisation proceeds to be used for debt servicing,

Lees verder op The Guardian >>>

EU nagelt Griekenland aan het kruis

Het pakket maatregelen dat de leiders van de eurolanden willen opleggen aan Griekenland wordt van veel kanten opgevat als ongekend hard.

“Het is een buitengewoon streng pakket”, zegt NOS-correspondent Arjan Noorlander vanuit Brussel. “Er worden heel veel toezeggingen van de Grieken verwacht, misschien wel onrealistisch veel toezeggingen, en het moet ook nog eens binnen drie dagen geregeld zijn.”

De Engelse krant The Guardian citeert op zijn website een EU-functionaris die spreekt van “uitgebreide mentale waterboarding” van Griekenland. De krant omschrijft het steunpakket dat ter tafel ligt, het derde in vijf jaar tijd, als “een draconisch pakket bezuinigingsmaatregelen dat neerkomt op het inleveren van de financiële soevereiniteit” van Griekenland, in ruil voor het vermijden van een Grexit. De openingskop van de papieren krant zal morgenochtend luiden “Europa neemt wraak op Tsipras.”

Het Duitse weekblad Der Spiegel omschrijft het voorstel aan Griekenland als “een catalogus van wreedheden”. “De ministers van Financiën hebben hun eisen op vier pagina’s verwoord. Het document leest alsof ze hoe dan ook geen akkoord willen bereiken.”

Ook persbureau Bloomberg ziet de voorstellen als een vernedering van de Grieken. “EU eist complete overgave van Tsipras”.

En de vooraanstaande Amerikaanse econoom Paul Krugman schrijft in zijn column in The New York Times: “De lijst met eisen van de Eurogroep is waanzin.” Dit is pure wraakzucht, totale verwoesting van de nationale soevereiniteit, zonder enige hoop op verbetering.”

Binnen de Griekse regeringspartij Syriza wordt met ongeloof gereageerd op de plannen, zegt verslaggever Eva Wiessing in Athene. “En vooral op de manier waarop Tsipras onder druk wordt gezet om te slikken of te stikken.”

“Het wordt gezien als een capitulatie, omdat er wordt gezegd dat er geen sprake kan zijn van kwijtschelding van een deel van de schuld. Bovendien staat er dat, als het niet lukt, Griekenland maar een tijdje uit de euro moet stappen.”

Wat echt erg gevoelig ligt, is het plan om een fonds van 50 miljard euro aan Griekse staatsbezittingen te vormen in Luxemburg. “Hier zeggen ze daarover: we hebben niet eens 50 miljard euro aan staatseigendommen.”

Intussen is op Twitter de hashtag #ThisIsACoup trending topic.

Bron: NOS

Erop of eronder voor Merkel

Am Sonntag geht es um die Zukunft der Europäischen Union – und um die der Kanzlerin. Drückt sie ein neues Hilfsprogramm durch den Bundestag? Oder bricht sie mit Frankreich?

Wenn Angela Merkel an diesem Sonntag nach Brüssel kommt, steht sie vor der schwersten Entscheidung in zehn Jahren Kanzlerschaft. Entweder stimmt sie einem dritten Hilfsprogramm für Griechenland zu. Dann müsste sie in der Unionsfraktion für eine Mehrheit kämpfen, um mindestens 74 Milliarden frische Euro nach Griechenland zu schicken. Oder Merkel leitet einen Grexit ein, der Deutschland ebenfalls teuer zu stehen käme und viele politische Unwägbarkeiten mit sich brächte. Auf dem Spiel stehen: ihr Ansehen als Europas heimliche Regierungschefin, das Verhältnis zu Frankreich und sogar ihre Kanzlerschaft, wenn sie nicht genügend Abgeordnete hinter sich bringt. Es gibt jetzt nichts mehr zu gewinnen. Die Frage ist nur, bei welcher Option die Kanzlerin am wenigsten verliert. So laufen fünf Monate des Ringens um und mit Griechenland auf ein dramatisches Finale zu.

Goede reconstructie met veel details op de Frankfurter Allgemeine

Killing the European Project

Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.

Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.

Can anything pull Europe back from the brink? Word is that Mario Draghi is trying to reintroduce some sanity, that Hollande is finally showing a bit of the pushback against German morality-play economics that he so signally failed to supply in the past. But much of the damage has already been done. Who will ever trust Germany’s good intentions after this?

In a way, the economics have almost become secondary. But still, let’s be clear: what we’ve learned these past couple of weeks is that being a member of the eurozone means that the creditors can destroy your economy if you step out of line. This has no bearing at all on the underlying economics of austerity. It’s as true as ever that imposing harsh austerity without debt relief is a doomed policy no matter how willing the country is to accept suffering. And this in turn means that even a complete Greek capitulation would be a dead end.

Can Greece pull off a successful exit? Will Germany try to block a recovery? (Sorry, but that’s the kind of thing we must now ask.)

The European project — a project I have always praised and supported — has just been dealt a terrible, perhaps fatal blow. And whatever you think of Syriza, or Greece, it wasn’t the Greeks who did it.

Paul Krugman

Bron: New York Times

Greece’s Tsipras faces storm at home over debt talks

Whatever the outcome of wrangling in Brussels over its debt problems, Greece may be heading for further political turmoil as defections by left-wingers weaken Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s grip on government.

Out of 149 lawmakers in his radical-left SYRIZA party, 17 refused to support him in Saturday’s vote which authorized the government to reopen negotiations for a bailout in exchange for austerity measures.

The revolt meant Tsipras could not count on his majority in the 300-seat assembly.

He got the votes he needed with the backing of the right-wing opposition and a coalition that included Socialist and other left-wing legislators.

Since the vote Greece has plunged back into tense talks with the 18 other members of the eurozone over a potential bailout to keep the heavily-indebted nation in the euro.

But any deal will inevitably come tied to tough conditions, demanded especially by northern European countries.
It will require the approval of the Greek parliament – and Tsipras will again not likely be able to rely on the support of a portion of his party.

Fifteen SYRIZA MPs who had backed Tsipras on Saturday sent a letter to the premier saying he should not count on them to approve any future reforms demanded by Greece’s creditors.

More austerity demands are expected as Germany’s fiscal hawks faced off on Sunday against doves led by France at a summit of the 19 eurozone leaders in Brussels, with Athens facing demands to push through new reform laws as early as the coming week.

Among radical politicians who have bucked supporting Tsipras are Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis – a sworn foe of the euro – and parliamentary president Zoe Constantopoulou, a thorn in Tsipras’s side.

Constantopoulou has become an icon for the left with an oppositional stance against the country’s creditors, including a parliamentary inquiry she launched that concluded Germany owed Greece 279 billion euros ($311 billion) in World War II reparations.

According to Greek center-right daily To Vima, Tsipras now finds himself stuck “between (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble, Zoe and Lafazanis.”

For the Greek press, Tsipras has just three options: new elections, a national unity government or a crackdown on SYRIZA members.

Lees verder op Ekathimerini