Varoufakis: How much did I cost?

Yanis Varoufakis is on the defense. Answering to a host of critics who accuse him of a destructive negotiation process with Greece’s lenders (among them, even his former Premier and friend, Alexis Tsipras, who admitted that while adding considerable momentum to the negotiations in the beginning, Varoufakis consequently became a ‘sinker’ for the Syriza-led government), Varoufakis just wrote a letter explaining how much he really cost the Greek people.

And how much is that? Yes, you’ve guessed it right! According to Varoufakis himself, the cost of his negotiation shenanigans amounts to… zero!

The full article is published in the Greek newspaper EFSYN. Below, you can find my translation of the excerpt available online. It’s definitely worth a read. But, whether one loves or hates Varoufakis, one thing is for sure: his arguments have become increasingly sloppier and his rhetoric more populist than ever before.

 

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Greek government’s post-Eurogroup nonpaper

Shortly after the Eurogroup meeting, the Greek government released a non-paper (labeled as an “Informal Briefing”) imprinting the atmosphere of the Eurogroup talks, as well as the steps forward with the new ESM agreement. The nonpaper is interesting, as it shows an evident change in rhetoric from the one utilized up until now by the Syriza-led government.

You can find the original (in Greek), here. Below, you can read my own (quick) translation of the non-paper.

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Syriza’s Left Platform call not to pay next IMF tranche

Syriza’s Left Platform, spearheaded by Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy, Panagiotis Lafazanis, issued a document during today’s meeting of the Central Committee of SYRIZA, which will come for a vote later in the day. The document calls – once again! – for the rupture with the lenders. Specifically, it asks from the government not to repay the upcoming tranche to the IMF in June, if the ‘institutions’ continue with the ‘same blackmailing tactic.’

You can find the original text in Greek here and here. Below, you can find my translated version of the document.

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The warlike statement of Syriza’s Political Secretariat

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Statement by the Political Secretariat of Syriza [14 May 2015]

From the first moment that this government was established, it became clear – both domestically, and abroad – that the mandate given by the Greek people is binding and comprises of a compass in the negotiations.

The red lines of the government are red lines of the Greek people, expressing the interests of the workers, self-employed, pensioners, farmers, and the youth. They expressed the need for the country to enter a new path of growth, with social justice and redistribution of wealth at its core. 

The insistence of the lenders in implementing the MoU program of the Samaras’s government, creating an asphyxiating stranglehold of political pressures and financial asphyxiation in the country, comes in direct contrast to the notion of democracy and popular sovereignty in Europe. It expresses the obsessive fixation to austerity that deconstructs the welfare state, the oligarchic direction of European affairs in closed rooms that are unaffected by the will of the people, [and] which pave the way to the rise of the extreme right in Europe.

These requirements cannot be accepted. They cannot be accepted by the Greek people who fought all these past years in order to put an end to the criminal policies of the Memoranda. They cannot be accepted by the people of Europe and by the progressive societies and political powers, who fight for a Europe of solidarity and Democracy. 

The citizens of Greece and Europe are not passive consumers of 8 o’clock news, on the contrary, we believe that they can be co-stars in a negotiation that concerns the common fate of all of us, in the scale of Europe and the world.

SYRIZA will take any possible initiative to inform the Greek people, but also the European people. In every city, in every neighborhood and workplace, but also in all countries of Europe, the MPs, MEPs, and members of SYRIZA will come together with [other] members of SYRIZA and forces of solidarity [towards the party] in a wide mobilization call for the win of democracy and of dignity.

Now is the time for the people themselves to enter the battle. 

We will win.

Original text (in Greek) can be found here.

Photo: Sofokleousin

GR Political Economy Digest #18

tsipras_IliasMakris

Here are the top articles on the political economy of Greece to read today:

  1. Greece: The gathering storm, by Nick Malkoutzis | Macropolis.gr, Mar 5 2015
  2. Eurozone QE is here. What could possibly go wrong?, by Alen Mattich | The Wall Street Journal (Moneybeat), Mar 5 2015
  3. Greece Struggles to Make Debt Math Work in Bailout Standoff, by Nikolaos Chrysoloras, Rebecca Christie and Vassilis Karamanis | Bloomberg, Mar 5 2015
  4. Greece outlines radical immigration reforms, by Preethi Nallu | Al Jazeera, Mar 5 2015
  5. 5 questions ECB boss Draghi will face at Thursday’s meeting, by Sara Sjolin | MarketWatch, Mar 5 2015
  6. Spain insists Greece will need a third bailout – as it happened, by Angela Monaghan | The Guardian, Mar 4 2015
  7. Germany says third Greek aid package not on Eurogroup agenda, by Andreas Rinke and Madeline Chambers | Reuters, Mar 4 2015
  8. Can Greece avoid going bankrupt this month?, by Mehreen Khan | The Telegraph, Mar 4 2015
  9. Greece’s survival depends on more than debt agreements, by Peter Foster | Financial Post, Mar 3 2015
  10. Austerity is not Greece’s problem, by Ricardo Hausmann | Project Syndicate, Mar 3 2015
  11. Syriza’s about-face, by Stathis N. Kalyvas | Foreign Affairs, Mar 2 2015

Photo: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 01/03/2015)

The interview of “Varoufakis’s shadow”: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Euclid Tsakalotos

Greek finance minister Varoufakis in Germany
The dream team of Tsakalotos and Varoufakis, ready for action.

Euclid Tsakalotos, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and responsible for the international economic relations of SYRIZA, is one of the key figures in the ongoing negotiations between the Greek government and its partners. A Sussex- and Oxford-trained Economist, he is a Professor at the University of Athens (currently on leave?), and has been a member of SYRIZA for more than ten years (in its earliest form, of course).

Interestingly, Tsakalotos and Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister, have spent a number of years as colleagues in the same department of Economics at the University of Athens. Now, I am not familiar of their personal relationship, but given how closely they have been working since the 25th of January and the election of the SYRIZA-led coalition, it should be quite good. Tsakalotos has accompanied Varoufakis to most (if not all?) meetings with ‘TIFKAT’ (The Institutions Formerly Known as Troika) and Ministers of other Eurozone countries. In a sense, he has been the shadow of Varoufakis for the past 6 weeks, following him reverently and quietly.

This past Sunday, Tsakalotos gave an interview to SYRIZA’s “unofficial” newspaper, Avgi (it translates as “Dawn” in Greek). While the interview is nothing like Varoufakis’s spicy ones, it nevertheless gives a good understanding of someone really high up on the ranks of SYRIZA, other than Varoufakis, who is not a very vocal representative of the hardcore Left platform (albeit a heterodox economist). I believe that Tsakalotos makes some very interesting remarks in the interview, and as such, decided once again to translate the whole thing. Thankfully, it is quite short this time.

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The juicy interview of Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis

Earlier this morning, Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister gave a 28-minute long phone interview to the mainstream Greek radio station, REAL FM. The person conducting the interview is no other than Nikos Hatzinikolaou, a prominent journalist who is the face of the station [he also owns it], and has turned into sort-of-a media mogul during the years of the crisis. The interview is extremely juicy, for many reasons. First and foremost, it gives a good indication of the rhetoric employed by the Greek government at this moment, domestically. As you will see, the rhetoric (even) of Varoufakis – who is supposedly a moderate within the party – is a tad bit more heightened  than in his appearances on international media. Secondly, it gives a very clear idea of what the Greek government intends to do (and what it intends not to do) in the short-term (i.e. the four-month extension period of the loan agreement), as well as the medium- to long-term (i.e. what happens after June).

I will resist my temptation to comment on this amazing piece of rhetorical eloquence by Yanis. Instead, I will highlight in red those parts of the interview that I feel are the most important and actually give a good idea to foreign readers about (a) how exactly the Greek government sees this four-month extension, (b) how it interprets the role of the TIFKAT (The Institutions Formerly Known As Troika), (c) how it perceives the way in which it negotiated, (d) what it asserts it has achieved through the Eurogroup negotiations, and (e) how (and if!) it intends to fulfill its obligations vis-a-vis TIFKAT.

The audio file of the interview can be found here (in Greek). You can find my translation of the interview below.

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GR Political Economy Digest #17

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While Friday’s Eurogroup storm seems to have passed, today is an equally (if not more) important date for the fate of Greece. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Minister of Finance, is expected to send a list of proposed reforms to TIFKAT (The ‘Institutions’ Formerly Known As Troika) for approval. Analysts, markets, and entire governments might have sighed in relief on Friday, but it is today actually that will illuminate whether a substantial compromise has been reached in the last Eurogroup meeting.

There is not much to say at this point, other than to wait and see what Varoufakis has planned. The list of reforms is expected to be quite short (no longer than 3-5 pages) and concise. Hopefully, it will also include meaningful proposals that speak more of a “compromise,” rather than the hardcore Left platform of Syriza or ANEL. “Wait, what?,” you may ask. “Who cares about those hardcore Lefties and the few ultra-nationalist crazies of ANEL? They are a fringe part anyways, right? And they wouldn’t jeopardize their ascent to power so soon, would they? As long as the moderate part of Syriza is willing to compromise, then there is no problem!” Well… I would love to share your optimism, but I am quite wary of the influence of the anti-austerity and anti-reform hardliners. I am also quite confident that we will witness some important schisms in the next couple of weeks – iff (if and only if) Varoufakis and Tsipras are true to Friday’s deal. Some senior Syriza officials and important figures of the Left have already begun speaking up (Manolis Glezos, John Milios, Sofia Sakorafa, and even Mikis Theodorakis). I suspect that more voices will soon follow in tune. Will that be enough to bring the government down? This is extremely early to say. But don’t be surprised if the inter-governmental dynamics change drastically in the upcoming weeks.

In any case, happy Lent Monday everybody! Here is the list of the top articles to read on the political economy of Greece today: 

  1. Greece: Four more months of hope and risks, by Frederik Ducrozet | Credit Agricole CIB, Feb 23 2015
  2. Greek bailout: Athens submits economic reform plan today (Live updates), by Graeme Wearden | The Guardian, Feb 23 2015
  3. Tsipras tamed as economists declare Greece loses austerity fight, by Simon Kennedy & Jennifer Ryan | Bloomberg, Feb 23 2015
  4. Greece scrambles to send draft reforms to EU institutions, by Peter Spiegel & Kerin Hope | The Financial Times, Feb 23 2015
  5. In defence of can-kicking, by Duncan Weldon | Medium, Feb 23 2015
  6. A hard week ahead for Greece after a last-minute deal, by Max Ehrenfreund | The Washington Post, Feb 23 2015
  7. Greece’s future is its past, by Rebecca Harding | Pieria, Feb 23 2015
  8. Greece: A debt colony with a bit of “home rule”, by Paul Mason | Channel4 News, Feb 23 2015
  9. Varoufakis ‘absolutely certain’ Greek reforms will meet approval | Deutsche Welle, Feb 22 2015
  10. Spain said to lead EU push to force terms on Greece, by Nikolaos Chrysoloras & Karl Stagno Navarra | Bloomberg, Feb 22 2015
  11. Ten days that shook the euro; how Greece came to the brink, by Alastair MacDonald & Jan Strupczewski | Reuters, Feb 22 2015
  12. Greece readies reform promises, by George Georgiopoulos | Reuters, Feb 22 2015

Photo Credits: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 22.02.2015)

GR Political Economy Digest #16

pavlopouleto

Habemus Pavlopoulos! As of today evening, Greece has a new President of the Democracy (PtD). Prokopis Pavlopoulos, former Minister for the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization (2004-2007) and Minister for the Interior and Public Order (2007-2009) with New Democracy, has just been voted as the new PtD. A lawyer and influential legal scholar in Greece, Pavlopoulos was nominated by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras himself on Tuesday noon.

But Pavlopoulos was both an unexpected and an unwelcome choice for the vast majority of the Greek people. He was unexpected because, up until the last moment, Greek media were almost certain that New Democracy’s Dimitris Avramopoulos (the current European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship) would be Tsipras’s pick. Moreover, the two other names thrown in the rumor frenzy by the press, former PM Kostas Karamanlis and former MEP Marietta Giannakou, did not point towards Provopoulos’s direction at all.  In a surprising move, and after not announcing his nomination as planned on Sunday night, Alexis Tsipras nominated Provopoulos instead yesterday.

But Pavlopoulos is also viewed as a highly unwelcome choice. He was Minister for the Interior and Public Order during the 2008 December riots that caused enormous damages in Athens and other major cities, but failed to handle the situation accordingly. He was heavily attacked back then, both by regular citizens who viewed their property being damaged or looted right in front of their eyes, and by the party of Syriza, who accused him, together with the police, for plotting various schemes and acts of brutality. Pavlopoulos is also infamous for authorizing more than 800,000 hirings in the public sector as a Minister for the New Democracy government, between 2004 and 2009. If the notion of ‘clientelism’ could be personified, he would definitely be one of the highest contenders for the title.

Despite all that, Pavlopoulos was eventually named the new PtD of Greece, voted by 233 MPs (out of a total of 300), including the majority of New Democracy MPs and former PM Antonis Samaras himself.

Leaving aside the election for the PtD, the Greek government has a lot of ground to cover in the days to come in order to secure the continuing financing of the country. But so does Germany and the rest of the Eurozone partners, if they aim to arrive at a substantive and meaningful deal with Greece. Accordingly, the ECB – which has emerged as a sort-of power broker in the past few weeks – has also a big role to play in all of this. Let us hope that both sides can pour some water in their wines, and meet somewhere halfway through, with the ECB acting as a constructive addition rather than impediment to an upcoming agreement. Otherwise, there is no way for this story to have a good ending. Time is running, and money running out. The sooner there is a deal, the better for Greece.

Addendum: It has come to my attention that few blogs and websites have linked to this post, with some people contesting the total number of hirings authorized by Pavlopoulos. Since this is an important issue, let me point you to a few more links on the subject matter. The accusations against Pavlopoulos have been leveled by the newspaper Ta Nea a while back. Indeed, not many other newspapers have delved into the matter, and Pavlopoulos has himself refuted the claims on a radio-show once. Nevertheless, there has been no official statement from neither Pavlopoulos, nor New Democracy to refute the total number of the hirings (that I know of). And even if there is, and the (yet to be disputed) number is wrong, one thing is for sure: Pavlopoulos did authorize the hiring of a hell lot of people during his tenure. He did nurture the clientelistic Greek state even further. And that is a sad reality.

The top articles on the Greek political economy to read before you go to bed tonight are:

  1. What deal could be struck to keep Greece in the Eurozone?, by Raoul Ruparel | Open Europe, Feb 18 2015
  2. Greece to submit loan request to euro zone, Germany resists, by Renee Maltezou and John O’Donnell | Reuters, Feb 18 2015
  3. Greece gets lifeline as ECB agrees €3.3bn extra emergency funds, by Jennifer Rankin, Graeme Wearden and Helena Smith | The Guardian, Feb 18 2015
  4. Greece’s game of chicken is starting to get dangerous, by Matt O’ Brien | The Washington Post, Feb 18 2015
  5. Power broker in Greek debt crisis could be the E.C.B., by Jack Ewing | The New York Times, Feb 18 2015
  6. Greece’s key pledges and requests at the Eurogroup meetings | Macropolis.gr, Feb 18 2015
  7. Calling Greece’s loan-agreement bluff: A giant red herring, by Gabriele Steinhauser and Viktoria Dendrinou | The Wall Street Journal, Feb 18 2015
  8. The world-historic depths of Greece’s economic misery, charted, by Jordan Weissman | Slate (Moneybox), Feb 18 2015
  9. Kammenos makes media threat, compares euro talks to resistance against Ottomans | Kathimerini, Feb 18 2015
  10. Even as progressives take lead in Greece, women remain out of power, by Joanna Kakissis | NPR, Feb 18 2015
  11. Why Angela Merkel is holding firm on Greece, by Mark Gilbert | The Chicago Tribune, Feb 17 2015
  12. Give Greece Room to Maneuver, by the Editorial Board | The New York Times, Feb 17 2015
  13. PM Tsipras declares war at home on Greece’s ‘oligarchs’, by Stephen Grey | Reuters, Feb 17 2015

Photo: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini)

GR Political Economy Digest #4

  1. Zoning out | The Economist, Jan 17 2015
  2. Greek banks make requests for ELA funding | Kathimerini Jan 16 2015
  3. Syriza for Greece Doesn’t Mean Leaving the Euro | Bloomberg News, Jan 16 2015
  4. Two Greek Banks are Asking for Emergency Assistance | Business Insider, Jan 16 2015
  5. Greeks step up bank withdrawals fearing election aftermath |EurActiv, Jan 16 2015
  6. Unfolding Greek Euro Tragedy Could be Perilous for Germany | Forbes, Jan 16 2015
  7. Will the Greek Election Ultimately Break the Euro? | The Brookings Institution, Jan 16 2015
  8. The Greek Business Community is Worried that the Upcoming Election Might Kill Any Shot at Economic Recovery | Business Insider, Jan 16 2015
  9. Greek Anti-Austerity Party Edges Toward the Mainstream in Foreign Policy | Bloomberg News, Jan 15 2015
  10. Politics Risk Tripping Up Greece on Debt Relief | WSJ, Jan 15 2015
  11. Who is Alexis Tsipras? | Open Democracy, Jan 15 2015