Tag Archives: Greece

Greeks slide deeper into poverty

Retired teacher and volunteer Eva Agkisalaki clears tables at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Retired teacher and volunteer Eva Agkisalaki clears tables at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

By Alkis Konstantinidis, Reuters
February, 2017

An elderly woman searches through donated clothes at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis             SEARCH "POVERTY GREECE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

An elderly woman searches through donated clothes at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis.

Greek pensioner Dimitra says she never imagined a life reduced to food handouts: some rice, two bags of pasta, a packet of chickpeas, some dates and a tin of milk for the month.

At 73, Dimitra – who herself once helped the hard-up as a Red Cross food server – is among a growing number of Greeks barely getting by. After seven years of bailouts that poured billions of euros into their country, poverty isn’t getting any better; it’s getting worse like nowhere else in the EU.

“It had never even crossed my mind,” she said, declining to give her last name because of the stigma still attached to accepting handouts in Greece. “I lived frugally. I’ve never even been on holiday. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Now more than half of her 332 euro ($350) monthly income goes to renting a tiny Athens apartment. The rest: bills.

The global financial crisis and its fallout forced four euro zone countries to turn to international lenders. Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus all went through rescues and are back out, their economies growing again. But Greece, the first into a bailout in 2010, has needed three.

Rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund saved Greece from bankruptcy, but the austerity and reform policies the lenders attached as conditions have helped to turn recession into a depression.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose leftist-led government is lagging in opinion polls, has tried to make the plight of Greeks a rallying cry in the latest round of drawn-out negotiations with the lenders blocking the release of more aid.

“We must all be careful towards a country that has been pillaged and people who have made, and are continuing to make, so many sacrifices in the name of Europe,” he said this month.

People line up as they wait to enter a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis            SEARCH "POVERTY GREECE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

People line up as they wait to enter a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis 

Much of the vast sums in aid money has simply been in the form of new debt used to repay old borrowings. But regardless of who is to blame for the collapse in living standards, poverty figures from the EU statistics agency are startling.

Greece isn’t the poorest member of the EU; poverty rates are higher in Bulgaria and Romania. But Greece isn’t far behind in third place, with Eurostat data showing 22.2 percent of the population were “severely materially deprived” in 2015.

And whereas the figures have dropped sharply in the post-communist Balkan states – by almost a third in Romania’s case – the Greek rate has almost doubled since 2008, the year the global crisis erupted. Overall, the EU level fell from 8.5 percent to 8.1 percent over the period.

The reality of such statistics becomes clear at places like the food bank run by the Athens municipality where Dimitra collects her monthly handouts.

Here, dozens more Greeks waited solemnly with a ticket in hand to get their share. All are registered as living below the poverty line of about 370 euros a month.

“The needs are huge,” said Eleni Katsouli, a municipal official in charge of the centre.

People eat at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis            SEARCH "POVERTY GREECE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

People eat at a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis 

Figures for the food bank, which serves central Athens, show a similar trend on a local scale to the wider Eurostat data. About 11,000 families – or 26,000 people – are registered there, up from just 2,500 in 2012 and 6,000 in 2014, Katsouli said. About 5,000 are children.

Many of the shelves and refrigerators in its stock room stood empty. What they give away depends on what sponsors – themselves often struggling businesses – can donate.

“We’re worried because we don’t know if we’ll be able to meet these people’s needs,” Katsouli said. “There are families with young children and on some days we haven’t even got milk to give them.”

International organisations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have urged the government to prioritise tackling poverty and inequality.

Poverty stricken area of Perama is seen near Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis             SEARCH "POVERTY GREECE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

Poverty stricken area of Perama is seen near Athens, Greece, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis 

Unemployment has slipped from a peak of 28 percent of the workforce to 23 percent but the rate remains the highest in the EU. Since the crisis began, the economy has shrunk by a quarter and thousands of businesses have closed for good.

Hopes are high the economy can pick up this year but data last week showed it contracted again from October to December after two straight quarters of growth.

Better living standards seem as far away as ever. Over 75 percent of households suffered a significant income reduction last year, a survey by business confederation GSEVEE and Marc pollsters found. A third had at least one unemployed member and 40 percent said they had to cut back on food spending.

The Greek Ombudsman says a growing number of people struggle to pay utility bills. In a no-frills Athens neighbourhood, a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church serves 400 meals a day over four sittings in under two hours.

“Everyone is going through hard times – all of Greece is,” said Eva Agkisalaki, 61, a former teacher who volunteers there.

An elderly man sells chestnuts in front of the parliament during a demonstration to demand tax reductions and compensation in Athens, Greece, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis            SEARCH "POVERTY GREECE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

An elderly man sells chestnuts in front of the parliament during a demonstration to demand tax reductions and compensation in Athens, Greece, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis 

Agkisalaki did not qualify for a pension because her contract ended when the retirement age was lifted to 67 under the bailout programme and she could not find work, she said. Part of her husband’s pension, cut to 600 euros from 980 also under reforms demanded by the international lenders, goes to her son and daughter’s families.

In return for volunteering, Agkisalaki receives handouts from the soup kitchen which she shares among her unemployed daughter and her son.

“We’re vegetating,” she said between setting a long wooden table for the next meal of bean soup, bread, an egg, a slice of pizza and an apple. “We just exist. Most Greeks just exist.”

Evangelia Konsta, who oversees the centre and whose business supplies the meat, said the number of people eating at the soup kitchen has more than doubled in two years and the church often also helps cover people’s electricity or water bills too.

“Things are getting worse, they’re not getting better and that’s reflected in people’s needs,” Konsta said. “There are people who haven’t even got 1 euro.”

Across Athens, the number of Greeks sleeping rough is a testament to that. Volunteers drive a van with two washing machines and two dryers to neighbourhoods where the homeless gather to help them clean up.

“You see the same faces, but also new ones,” said Fanis Tsonas, co-founder of the Ithaca mobile laundry, as destitute men and women brought bags of laundry.

Few are hopeful of better days.

“I don’t think there’s one person who’s not afraid of the future,” said Dimitra, the pensioner, clutching her plastic bag of rationed goods.

Copyright Reuters 2017

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Yanis Varoufakis in conversation, as Syriza splinters and Greek election beckons

By Yanis Varoufakis, et al
September, 2015

Yanis-Varoufakis Photo by Jörg Rüger, Creative Commons

Yanis-Varoufakis Photo by Jörg Rüger, Creative Commons

When Yanis Varoufakis was elected to parliament and then named as Greek finance minister in January, he embarked on an extraordinary seven months of negotiations with the country’s creditors and its European partners.

On July 6, Greek voters backed his hardline stance in a referendum, with a resounding 62% voting No to the European Union’s ultimatum. On that night, he resigned, after prime minister Alexis Tsipras, fearful of an ugly exit from the eurozone, decided to go against the popular verdict. Since then, the governing party, Syriza, has splintered and a snap election has been called. Varoufakis remains a member of parliament and a prominent voice in Greek and European politics.

When asked about Tsipras’s decision to trigger a snap election, inviting the Greek public to issue their judgement on his time in office, Varoufakis said:

If only that were so! Voters are being asked to endorse Alexis Tsipras’ decision, on the night of their majestic referendum verdict, to overturn it; to turn their courageous No into a capitulation, on the grounds that honouring that verdict would trigger a Grexit. This is not the same as calling on the people to pass judgement on a record of steadfast opposition to a failed economic programme doing untold damage to Greece’s social economy. It is rather a plea to voters to endorse him, and his choice to surrender, as a lesser evil.

The Conversation asked nine leading academics what their questions were for a man who describes himself as an “accidental economist”. His answers reveal regrets about his own approach during a dramatic 2015, a withering assessment of France’s power in Europe, fears for the future of Syriza, a view that Syriza is now finished, and doubts over how effective Jeremy Corbyn could be as leader of Britain’s Labour party.


Anton Muscatelli, University of GlasgowWhy was Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras persuaded to accept the EU’s pre-conditions around the third bailout discussions despite a decisive referendum victory for the No campaign; and is this the end of the road for the anti-austerity wing of Syriza in Greece?

Varoufakis: Tsipras’ answer is that he was taken aback by official Europe’s determination to punish Greek voters by putting into action German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s plan to push Greece out of the eurozone, redenominate Greek bank deposits in a currency that was not even ready, and even ban the use of euros in Greece. These threats, independently of whether they were credible or not, did untold damage to the European Union’s image as a community of nations and drove a wedge through the axiom of the eurozone’s indivisibility.

As you probably have heard, on the night of the referendum, I disagreed with Tsipras on his assessment of the credibility of these threats and resigned as finance minister. But even if I was wrong on the issue of the credibility of the troika’s threats, my great fear was, and remains, that our party, Syriza, would be torn apart by the decision to implement another self-defeating austerity program of the type that we were elected to challenge. It is now clear that my fears were justified.


Roy Bailey, University of EssexWas the surprise referendum of July 5 conceived as a threat point for the ongoing bargaining between Greece and its creditors and has the last year caused you to adjust how you think about Game Theory?

Varoufakis: I shall have to disappoint you Roy {Editor’s note: Roy Bailey taught Varoufakis at Essex and advised on his PhD}. As I wrote in a New York Times op-ed, Game Theory was never relevant. It applies to interactions where motives are exogenous and the point is to work out the optimal bluffing strategies and credible threats, given available information. Our task was different: it was to persuade the “other” side to change their motivation vis-à-vis Greece.

I represented a small, suffering nation in its sixth straight year of deep recession. Bluffing with our people’s fate would be irresponsible. So I did not. Instead, we outlined that which we thought was a reasonable position, consistent with our creditors’ own interests. And then we stood our ground. When the troika pushed us into a corner, presenting me with an ultimatum on June 25 just before closing Greece’s banking system down, we looked at it carefully and concluded that we had neither a mandate to accept it (given that it was economically non-viable) nor to decline it (and clash with official Europe). Instead we decided to do something terribly radical: to put it to the Greek people to decide.

Lastly, on a theoretical point, the “threat point” in your question refers to John Nash’s bargaining solution which is based on the axiom of non-conflict between the parties. Tragically, we did not have the luxury to make that assumption.


Cristina Flesher Fominaya, University of AberdeenThe dealings between Greece and the EU seemed more like a contest between democracy and the banks, than a negotiation between the EU and a member state. Given the outcome, are there any lessons that you would take from this for other European parties resisting the imperatives of austerity politics?

Varoufakis: Allow me to phrase this differently. It was a contest between the right of creditors to govern a debtor nation and the democratic right of the said nation’s citizens to be self-governed. You are quite right that there was never a negotiation between the EU and Greece as a member state of the EU. We were negotiating with the troika of lenders, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and a wholly weakened European Commission in the context of an informal grouping, the Eurogroup, lacking specific rules, without minutes of the proceedings, and completely under the thumb of one finance minister and the troika of lenders.

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Moreover, the troika was terribly fragmented, with many contradictory agendas in play, the result being that the “terms of surrender” they imposed upon us were, to say the least, curious: a deal imposed by creditors determined to attach conditions which guarantee that we, the debtor, cannot repay them. So, the main lesson to be learned from the last few months is that European politics is not even about austerity. Or that, as Nicholas Kaldor wrote in The New Statesman in 1971, any attempt to construct a monetary union before a political union ends up with a terrible monetary system that makes political union much, much harder. Austerity and a hideous democratic deficit are mere symptoms.


Panicos Demetriades, University of LeicesterDid you ever think that your message was being diluted or becoming noisy, or even incoherent, by giving so many interviews?

Varoufakis: Yes. I have regretted several interviews, especially when the journalists involved took liberties that I had not anticipated. But let me also add that the “noise” would have prevailed even if I granted far fewer interviews. Indeed the media game was fixed against our government, and me personally, in the most unexpected and repulsive way. Wholly moderate and technically sophisticated proposals were ignored while the media concentrated on trivia and distortions. Giving interviews where I would, to some extent, control the content was my only outlet. Faced with an intentionally “noisy” media agenda that bordered on character assassination, I erred on the side of over-exposure.


Simon Wren-Lewis, University of OxfordMight it have been possible for a forceful France to have provided an effective counterweight to Germany in the Eurogroup, or did Germany always have a majority on its side?

Varoufakis: The French government feels that it has a weak hand. Its deficit is persistently within the territory of the so-called excessive deficit procedure of the European Commission, which puts Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, and France’s previous finance minister, in the difficult position of having to act tough on Paris under the watchful eye of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister.

It is also true, as you say, that the Eurogroup is completely “stitched up” by Schäuble. Nevertheless, France had an opportunity to use the Greek crisis in order to change the rules of a game that France will never win. The French government has, thus, missed a major opportunity to render itself sustainable within the single currency. The result, I fear, is that Paris will soon be facing a harsher regime, possibly a situation where the president of the Eurogroup is vested with draconian veto powers over the French government’s national budget. How long, once this happens, can the European Union survive the resurgence of nasty nationalism in places like France?


Kamal Munir, University of CambridgeYou often implied that what went on in your meetings with the troika (the IMF, ECB and European Commission) was economics only on the surface. Deep down, it was a political game being played. Don’t you think we are doing a disservice to our students by teaching them a brand of economics that is so clearly detached from this reality?

Varoufakis: If only some economics were to surface in our meetings with the troika, I would be happy! None did.

Even when economic variables were discussed, there was never any economic analysis. The discussions were exhausted at the level of rules and agreed targets. I found myself talking at cross-purposes with my interlocutors. They would say things like: “The rules on the primary surplus specify that yours should be at least 3.5% of GDP in the medium term.” I would try to have an economic discussion suggesting that this rule ought to be amended because, for example, the 3.5% primary target for 2018 would depress growth today, boost the debt-to-GDP ratio immediately and make it impossible to achieve the said target by 2018.

Such basic economic arguments were treated like insults. Once I was accused of “lecturing” them on macroeconomics. On your pedagogical question: while it is true that we teach students a brand of economics that is designed to be blind to really-existing capitalism, the fact remains that no type of sophisticated economic thinking, not even neoclassical economics, can reach the parts of the Eurogroup which make momentous decisions behind closed doors.


Mariana Mazzucato, University of SussexHow has the crisis in Greece (its cause and its effects) revealed failings of neoclassical economic theory at both the micro and the macro level?

Varoufakis: The uninitiated may be startled to hear that the macroeconomic models taught at the best universities feature no accumulated debt, no involuntary unemployment and, indeed, no money (with relative prices reflecting a form of barter). Save perhaps for a few random shocks that demand and supply are assumed to quickly iron out, the snazziest models taught to the brightest of students assume that savings automatically turn into productive investment, leaving no room for crises.

It makes it hard when these graduates come face-to-face with reality. They are at a loss, for example, when they see German savings that permanently outweigh German investment while Greek investment outweighs savings during the “good times” (before 2008) but collapses to zero during the crisis.

Moving to the micro level, the observation that, in the case of Greece, real wages fell by 40% but employment dropped precipitously, while exports remained flat, illustrates in Technicolor how useless a microeconomics approach bereft of macro foundations truly is.


Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of LondonDo you see any similarities between yourself and Jeremy Corbyn, who looks like he might win the (UK) Labour leadership, and do you think a left-wing populist party is capable of winning an election under a first-past-the-post system?

Varoufakis: The similarity that I feel at liberty to mention is that Corbyn and I, probably, coincided at many demonstrations against the Tory government while I lived in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, and share many views regarding the calamity that befell working Britons as power shifted from manufacturing to finance. However, all other comparisons must be kept in check.

Syriza was a radical party of the Left that scored a little more than 4% of the vote in 2009. Our incredible rise was due to the collapse of the political “centre” caused by popular discontent at a Great Depression due to a single currency that was never designed to sustain a global crisis, and by the denial of the powers-that-be that this was so.

The much greater flexibility that the Bank of England afforded to Gordon Brown’s and David Cameron’s British governments prevented the type of socio-economic implosion that led Syriza to power and, in this sense, a similarly buoyant radical left party is most unlikely in Britain. Indeed, the Labour Party’s own history, and internal dynamic, will, I am sure, constrain a victorious Jeremy Corbyn in a manner alien to Syriza.

Turning to the first-past-the-post system, had it applied here in Greece, it would have given our party a crushing majority in parliament. It is, therefore, untrue that Labour’s electoral failures are due to this system.

Lastly, allow me to urge caution with the word “populist”. Syriza did not put to Greek voters a populist agenda. “Populists” try to be all things to all people. Our promised benefits extended only to those earning less than £500 per month. If it wants to be popular, Labour cannot afford to be populist either.


Mark Taylor, University of WarwickWould you agree that Greece does not fulfil the criteria for successful membership of a currency union with the rest of Europe? Wouldn’t it be better if they left now rather than simply papering over the cracks and waiting for another Greek economic crisis to occur in a few years’ time?

Varoufakis: The eurozone’s design was such that even France and Italy could not thrive within it. Under the current institutional design only a currency union east of the Rhine and north of the Alps would be sustainable. Alas, it would constitute a union useless to Germany, as it would fail to protect it from constant revaluation in response to its trade surpluses.

Now, if by “criteria” you meant the Maastricht limits, it is of course clear that Greece did not fulfil them. But then again nor did Italy or Belgium. Conversely, Spain and Ireland did meet the criteria and, indeed, by 2007 the Madrid and Dublin governments were registering deficit, debt and inflation numbers that, according to the official criteria, were better than Germany’s. And yet when the crisis hit, Spain and Ireland sunk into the mire. In short, the eurozone was badly designed for everyone. Not just for Greece.

So should we cut our losses and get out? To answer properly we need to grasp the difference between saying that Greece, and other countries, should not have entered the eurozone, and saying now that we should now exit. Put technically, we have a case of hysteresis: once a nation has taken the path into the eurozone, that path disappeared after the euro’s creation and any attempt to reverse along that, now non-existent, path could lead to a great fall off a tall cliff.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Yanis Varoufakis is Professor of Economics at University of AthensThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 Related reading on F&O:

The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes, by F&O International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe (*subscription)
EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout, by Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters (*unlocked)
Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default , by  Andre Broome (*unlocked) 

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*Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a subscription (click here for our subscribe page) or a donation, and/or by spreading the word.

 

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F&O Monday headlines

When the earth shakes under our feet we flee click-bait sites to seek informed, smart analysis. Suggestions for authoritative information on today’s breaking news:

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

On Greece and the European Union: Wire service reporting is often as neutral as it gets. Here’s Reuters:  Greek Debt Crisis 2015,  Live updates on the debt crisis in Greece.  For varied perspectives, including pieces by scholars and the main players go to Social Europe: “Where Now For Greece?. France has played a key role, at some risk to its relationship with Germany. Read Le Monde (in French) Crise Grecque or, in English, France24. Here is Deutsche Welle’s page in English, Greece bailout – live updates.   Guardian Eurozone Crisis reporting has been fully resourced and is up to date. Many commerce sites approach all stories from an assumption the  “free” market is always right. Some reading: Bloomberg;  Financial Times; Economist, Alexis Tsipras’s U-turn.

F&O’s Jonathan Manthorpe has a firm grasp on the back story. Read his column, The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes. (Cllick here for the required subscription or $1 day pass to our site required). Excerpt: 

There is no shortage of villains in this Greek tragedy.  It hasn’t helped matters that the advent of the euro has been a huge boon for the EU’s industrialized economies, especially Germany. Because the euro includes dud or semi-functional economies like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland, the international market place marks the currency’s value down against other hard currencies like the U.S. dollar. The result is that German exports are 50 per cent cheaper, by some analysis, than they would be if the country still used its former currency, the deutchmark.

On Iran, our analysis:

 Hardliners prepare to sink Iranian nuclear deal, by Jonathan Manthorpe (sybscription or $1 day pass required)

With a deal on Iran’s nuclear program in the offing, hardline opponents in Washington and Tehran are sharpening their teeth and honing their claws to a razor’s edge. In both capitals, the deal — nearly 20 years in the making — faces being derailed by intransigent political ideologues with little long-term vision.

The end is NOT nigh, by Tom Regan (by donation)

It’s enough to give a person permanent hypertension.  Russian president Vladimir Putin likes to flex his military muscles more than a steroid pumped-up body builder. China wants to challenge the United States for dominance in Asia. North Korea’s top leadership is, well, crazy. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are messing up the Middle East and threatening citizens around the world. And what ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t doing to destabilize the region, Iran is. It looks like the world is more dangerous that it has ever been for Uncle Sam, and Canada.  Except that … it’s not. 

Looking ahead this week, look waaay up, to the heavens. Pluto has put a spell on the global imagination. Why? Start here: This is Why You Have Not Seen A Bunch of Images of Pluto This Weekend: American Geophysical Union. At about 7:50 AM Tuesday, New York time, the New Horizons probe will pass about 12,500 km from Pluto, and the most sophisticated set of instruments ever put in deep space will record high resolution images of the dwarf planet.

NASA

NASA

Our own fresh sheet includes, in Commentary:

Jonathan Manthorpe International Affairs  column: Hardliners prepare to sink Iranian nuclear deal (Subscription)

Tom Regan’s Seeking Orenda on When religious liberty undermines freedom (by donation)

Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter: Singing for the Godfather: Al Martino (Subscription)

In Dispatches:

Srebrenica, digging for the dead, fighting denial, with a photo essay

UN: World’s poorest need $160 per year 

Explainer: tumult in China’s casino stock market 

In Case You Missed It, in Commentary:

Jim McNiven on Telegraphy, Radio, Utopia and You (by donation)

John Keane on Why we should still read Democracy in America 

Deborah Jones (yeah, that’s me): If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls … 

Francis X Clooney on  Forgiveness: the first step in reconciliation 

Penney Kome: On wanting to fit in and Rachel Dolezal 

Philip Loring: Wanted: A new story of humanity’s place in the world. 

ICYMI, in Dispatches:

The World’s Largest Electronic Waste Dump, in images

Nicholas Winton, the British Schindler, dies at 106 

World’s favourite bookstores ranking shows enduring market. 

U.S. court affirms equality of same sex marriage

China’s Dog Meat Festival, in Images 

Pope Francis throws down the gauntlet

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Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default

By André Broome, University of Warwick
June 30, 2015

Greece is set to miss the deadline on its €1.6 billion loan repayment due to the IMF. The country’s stalemate with its international creditors and the decision to hold a referendum on its bailout offer means Greece will become the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history.

Here are nine essential things to know about the default:

1. The long-term damage may yet be minimal. If Greece is only in arrears to the IMF for a short period of time, it may be shown leniency down the line. The IMF’s policy on overdue payments does distinguish between short-term and protracted arrears.

2. This is not yet a full-blown sovereign debt default by Greece. This is still a first for an EU member state, but the IMF is keen to maintain a distinction between a country being “in arrears” and a “default”. This important semantic distinction is also made by major credit rating agencies. It means the consequences for Greece may be temporary and small, if they are able to find a speedy resolution and make the payment.

3. Being in arrears to the IMF is not a new phenomenon. Since 1997, arrears owed to the IMF that were at least six months overdue have ranged from €1.5 billion to €3 billion in any given month. This is not a position any country wants to be in, however. It places Greece in the company of countries whose governments are widely seen as dysfunctional, or even “failed states”. The only countries with IMF repayments at least six months overdue in the past decade have been Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

4. The IMF will not allow any country to access its resources while it remains in arrears. For the IMF to be involved in any future new support package, arrears payments will first need to be settled, without the possibility of rescheduling payments. This makes Greece even more dependent on EU funding to bring liquidity back to its banks – making the outcome of the July 5 referendum even more important.

5. The IMF may now treat Greece even more harshly. It is hard to overstate how seriously the IMF takes the issue of prompt repayment of loans. In the past, countries that have deliberately missed payments have had to make significant moves towards adopting IMF policy preferences in order to regain access to its financial resources. This could include things like meeting stricter spending targets and enacting fundamental tax and pension reforms to gain future access to funds.

6. Greece is the IMF’s biggest-ever debtor. This means the stakes for the IMF are higher here than in other countries. Greece’s €1.6 billion payment would be the largest payment ever missed to the IMF.

7. Future relations are going to be tricky. It is difficult to see how the IMF could work with the Syriza-led coalition government after this default. There is an intense political dimension to the stalemate with the country’s creditors. The IMF does not like countries playing hardball over loan conditions. It likes populist appeals and inflammatory rhetoric even less. And it is fundamentally opposed to giving favourable deals to governments that violate their obligations to the organisation.

8. Greece’s default is a disaster for the IMF’s credibility. There is no positive spin that can be put on this. The IMF relies on countries making their payment obligations no matter what. This is why so few countries in recent years have gone into protracted arrears with the IMF. Greece’s credibility is already in dire straits, but the IMF has much to lose from its largest debtor “behaving badly”.

The IMF is already under fire from developing countries where Greece is seen as receiving special treatment. Unless the IMF brings the hammer down on Greece now, future borrowers outside of Europe will also delay IMF loan repayments when it is inconvenient.

9. Expect a severe response. If no quick resolution is found after Greece’s referendum on its bailout, the IMF must react strongly to preserve its credibility with other debtors. In the short term, the IMF is likely to step back sharply from seeking a compromise position with Greece. The IMF will insist the government makes key policy changes and meets its scheduled repayments before bailout negotiations can resume.

In the longer term, if Greece remains in arrears, the IMF could take the extreme step of suspending the country’s membership. Even if Greece didn’t need access to IMF resources, being suspended from the organisation would be another first for an advanced economy, and would see Greece’s reputation in the international financial community plummet further. Countries that remain in protracted arrears, such as Zimbabwe, have to complete an informal “staff-monitored programme” of policy conditions without funding as part of the process of normalising relations with the IMF.

Taken together, these nine points highlight the dangerous waters that Greece, the IMF, and the EU have now entered. Regardless of the referendum result, it is difficult to see the IMF cooperating with the government in Greece in the near future. Either fresh elections or a monumental change in policy direction will have to occur for that to happen.

The ConversationCreative Commons

André Broome is Associate Professor of International Political Economy at University of Warwick. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Further reading on F&O:

The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes, Jonathan Manthorpe column (paywall)
EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout
, by Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us.

 

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EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

By Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas
June 30, 2015

ATHENS (Reuters) – EU authorities made a last-minute offer to salvage a bailout deal that could keep Greece in the euro as the clock ticked down on Tuesday, with Germany warning that time had run out to extend vital credit lines to Athens.

With billions of euros in locked-up bailout funds due to expire at midnight, the European Commission urged Greece to accept the proposed deal, while holding out hopes that some tweaks could still be possible.

If no agreement is reached, Greece will default on a loan to the IMF, setting it on a path out of the euro with unforeseeable consequences for the European Union’s grand currency project and the global economy.

Greek officials, who insist that a referendum on the bailout package on Sunday is part of the negotiating process, said they wanted a deal though there was no firm offer or move towards accepting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals.

“We want a viable solution. If we get a credible proposal that leaves even a sniff of a viable solution, we’ll be the first to take it,” a senior finance official told reporters.

However prospects of a breakthrough were dampened by a cool response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This evening at exactly midnight central European time the programme expires. And I am not aware of any real indications of anything else,” Merkel said at a news conference with Kosovo’s prime minister.

“All I know is that the last offer from the Commission that I’m aware of is from Friday of last week.”

EU and Greek government sources said Juncker, who spoke to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late on Monday, had offered to convene an emergency meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Tuesday to approve an aid payment to prevent Athens defaulting, if Tsipras sent a written acceptance of the terms.

He also dangled the prospect of a negotiation on debt rescheduling later this year if Athens said “yes”.

By early afternoon on Tuesday no firm response had been received from Greece, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.

“As we speak, this move has not yet been received, registered, and time is now narrowing,” Schinas said.

The growing possibility that Athens could be forced out of the single currency brought into sharp focus the chaos that could be unleashed in Greece and the risks to the stability of the euro.

“What would happen if Greece came out of the euro? There would be a negative message that euro membership is reversible,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who a week ago declared that he did not fear contagion from Greece.

“People may think that if one country can leave the euro, others could do so in the future. I think that is the most serious problem that could arise.”

 

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

DEFIANCE

The last-ditch bid from Brussels came as uncertainty built ahead of Sunday’s referendum, with a string of European leaders warning that it would effectively be a choice between remaining in the euro or reverting to the drachma.

Opinion polls show Greeks in favour of holding on to the euro but a rally of tens of thousands of anti-austerity protestors in Athens on Monday highlighted the defiance many in Greece feel about being pushed into a corner by the lenders.

Further rallies are expected in coming days, with a demonstration in favour of staying in the euro planned in central Athens on Tuesday.

Tsipras broke off negotiations with the Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank and announced the referendum on the bailout terms early on Saturday, giving voters just one week to debate the fundamental issues at stake.

Under Juncker’s offer, Tsipras had to send a written acceptance by Tuesday of the terms published by the EU executive on Sunday and agree to campaign in favour of the bailout in the planned July 5 referendum.

European Union leaders hammered home the message that the real choice facing Greeks is whether to stay in the euro zone or return to the drachma, even though the EU has no legal way of forcing a member state to leave the single currency.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned against turning the referendum into a personality contest between Tsipras and Juncker or Merkel.

“This is not a referendum on European leaders. This is a run-off vote: euro or drachma,” Renzi told the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

“The Greeks do not have to say whether they love their prime minister or the head of the European Commission more. They have to say whether they want to stay in the single currency.”    

 

Giorgos, a 77-year-old pensioner from Athens, sits outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece as he waits along with dozens of other pensioners, hoping to get their pensions in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Giorgos, a 77-year-old pensioner from Athens, sits outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece as he waits along with dozens of other pensioners, hoping to get their pensions in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

DEFAULT

Greece, which has received nearly 240 billion euros in two bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund since 2010, is set to miss a 1.6 billion euro debt repayment to the IMF which falls due on Tuesday.

If that happens, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde will immediately report to the global lender’s board at close of business, Washington time, that Greece is “in arrears” – the official euphemism for default.

It will be the first time in the history of the IMF that an advanced economy has defaulted on a loan from the world’s financial backstop, putting Athens, which has seen its economy contract by more than 25 percent since 2009, in the same bracket as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Cuba.

Already the imposition of capital controls to prevent the crippled banking system from collapsing have given Greeks a bitter foretaste of the economic plunge that could follow exit from the euro.

Withdrawal limits of 60 euros a day have been fixed for cash machines and there have been long queues at petrol stations and in supermarkets as worried shoppers have stocked up on essentials like pasta and rice.

There were no immediate signs of serious shortages but if the banks remain closed, cash flow problems which have already been reported by some firms, could worsen.

“So far there are no problems with suppliers, but if the banks are still closed next week there will be a bit of a problem if they demand purely cash payments,” said Charisis Golas, owner of a small meat and dairy shop in Athens.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi in Milan, Mark John in Paris and George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Karagiannipoulos in Athens; Writing by Paul Taylor and James Mackenzie; editing by Anna Willard)

 Further reading on F&O:

The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes, Jonathan Manthorpe column (paywall)

Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default, by André BroomeUniversity of Warwick

The Greek crisis in photos:

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us.

 

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Now for Another Debt Crisis

JIM MCNIVEN  
April, 2015

I don’t know where the next debt crisis is going to come from, but I’ve got some good possibilities. When it does come, the big problem will not be the lenders or taxpayers who will get stiffed, more or less, but whether the crisis can be contained. What I mean is that when some kind of borrower, be it a state or a corporation, defaults on its financial obligations (bonds), other lenders will look around, find similar organizations in the same shape, and try to get their loans paid back immediately. This is not likely to be possible, even for the best of borrowers so, like a row of dominos, they will begin to fall and fail. This is called ‘contagion’ in the business. On a global scale, contagion can lead to an economic mess much more serious than the United States crisis of 2008.

There has already been one technical default, by Argentina, but it is an outlier and not contagious. Argentina defaulted a decade and more ago and its creditors eventually agreed to settle for 33 cents on the dollar. A hedge fund bought up some of the original debt at something like this discount, but has been successfully suing Argentina in U.S. courts to pay the hedge fund in full for its portion. Needless to say, the other creditors are not happy. They lose 67% and the hedge fund makes a killing. Argentina says it won’t pay the agreed-upon 33 cents until the hedge fund back down, so it is in default again. Ouch.

What I am focused on are other situations that could seriously rattle the international financial system. The first is a real dilly. Globally, there is something like $3 trillion (with a T) in loans outstanding that are denominated in U.S. dollars. What this means is that the loan was made in, or to, country X, payable in U.S. dollars by someone who had them. The loan proceeds were then converted into the local currency and invested or spent by that country. Such a loan is also repayable in U.S. dollars, but the U.S. dollar began to rise as the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank began to taper down its money-creating stimulus program. The dollar’s rise, relative to other currencies, was due also to the unexpected boost to the US balance of trade by the sudden increase in domestic oil production. In a short time, the U.S. purchases of foreign oil declined significantly.

Consider these changes. The Canadian dollar dropped from U.S.$1.02 in September 2012 to U.S.$0.79 in January 2015, a 20% decline in less than 2.5 years. Someone in Canada borrowing a million U.S.$ in September 2012 could have exchanged it for $1.02 million Canadian right away, but would owe, ignoring interest and some repayment, $1.264 million Canadian in January 2015. This is an extra quarter of a million dollars in local currency that the borrower would have to find, simply because of the relative strength of the U.S. dollar. The same repayment over the same months would cause the Japanese borrower to have to come up with 53% more yen, an Indonesian with 15% more rupiahs and a German with 14% more euros. You get the picture. What if the borrower’s plans did not work out and she can’t pay? What if a lot of borrowers can’t pay? There’s U.S.$ 3 trillion out there, a lot of it picked up from the Fed’s stimulus and shipped overseas to eager borrowers. The Argentinian case mentioned above is mere peanuts next to this.

A second problem is somewhat related to the American stimulus program. The Japanese government debt is the largest relative to the size of the economy (GDP) in the developed world. In order to, hopefully, stimulate the Japanese economy, the central bank is buying back a lot of this debt by just printing money — lots of it. The yen has dropped in value outside Japan, because there is so much yen floating around, but foreign holders are not screaming because 95% of the government bonds are held by the Japanese themselves. All that has happened is that imports have become a lot more expensive. And Japan imports almost everything. The crash in oil prices has masked the looming import problem, but sooner or later, it will bite. Exporters are ok, because their workers have all taken a foreign-exchange ‘pay cut’. For the average Japanese, this makes life harder. For the large numbers of retirees, this is a real blow. The pension system is not that great and Japan has the oldest population in the world, besides maybe the Russians. Can the Japanese succeed at a cheap currency problem? Well, if so, then why doesn’t everyone else play the same game of competitive devaluation? Contagion, anyone?

Then there are the interlinked problems of over-borrowing and austerity. The ratio of debt to GDP in most of the developed world is large. As long as these countries can make their payments on this debt, all is well, maybe. The problem is that making payments on the debt crowds out other demands that the society has. This shrinking of program spending is called austerity and it is not a popular thing for governments to foist on their populations. The Greeks, for instance are in this mess. The bondholders, especially in Germany, want to be paid. The Greek society is riddled with ways to avoid tax payments, so that the EU has insisted that if the Greeks want to continue to be in the Euro zone, they have to tighten up their collection systems and pass along more money. If they do that, then they are taking more money from their citizens and giving nothing but the vague satisfaction of having paid something on their debt. That’s a formula for political disaster. If they don’t do this, then the Greeks may have to leave the Eurozone and maybe the EU entirely, so they can create the new drachma, a basically worthless currency, and stiff their bondholders. How would this go down in the rest of the Eurozone countries where there are high public debt levels, you ask? Well, that’s contagion.

Finally, where does all the money come from that the lenders have available to lend? Thomas Piketty recently wrote a book, Capital, where he suggests that wealth grows by continuous positive returns on the investment of that wealth. Just keep getting a guaranteed 5% real (after inflation) return on your million dollars plus of capital and it will grow and grow, if you’re careful. If this is threatened, you turn to the bankers and the politicians to protect your money. Maybe you hide a lot of it in some offshore accounts, where wealth managers and hedge funds get you your return. You could buy apartments in New York City or Toronto or London — any place where the property market is hot. Of course, government bonds are safe, maybe, or at least you can get a high rate of return on some of the shaky ones and hope you can get out just before they crash. Whatever the approach, you will be a bit paranoid if you find that the bonds you own may lose their value, thus threatening your capital. It’s a tough world out there….and the herd instinct to all run in the same direction is strong….and that’s contagion.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2015

 

Jim McNiven

Dr. McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s election could change Greece — and Europe

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

For years the world has watched Greece, the cradle of democracy, implode in protests and economic decline. Indebted Greece has long been ill-served by its political and business leaders, and lately beholden to creditors bent on austerity. And today when the Greek people go to the polls in a general election —  if most pundits are right — not only Greece will change, but the ripples will be felt throughout Europe and globally.

Excerpt of an analysis by academic Theo Papadopoulos:

Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.  Click here to continue reading  Why the Greek election matters.

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Why the Greek election matters

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

By Theo Papadopoulos, University of Bath
January 24, 2015

The Greek election on January 25 will be the most important in recent memory. If the pollsters are proven correct, Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.

The origins of the party are to be found in a series of splits and consolidations involving various left-wing political groupings that, in one form or another, were originally related to the Communist Party of Greece. Syriza in its current form is a strategic coalition comprising a variety of political platforms that include social democrats, radical socialists and communists, environmentalists, anti-globalisation campaigners and human rights advocates.

Its original base comprised small business owners, academics and teachers with very little appeal among traditional working class voters. But the party’s current appeal is far broader, extending to the middle classes that were hit so hard by austerity measures (especially those associated with the public sector), as well as self-employed people, ex-small business owners, unemployed and underemployed people (especially youth).

Unlike other EU countries, these parts of the Greek electorate are not attracted to ultra-nationalist Eurosceptic parties. As traditional left-of centre voters they find attractive Syriza’s political narrative, a combination of anti-establishment discourse, mild left-wing patriotism, a vision that another Europe is possible and a vague hope for improving their economic and social condition.

Not all are convinced by Syriza, however. The voters attracted to far-right party Golden Dawn are traditional anti-communists who used to belong to the conservative New Democracy party or LAOS, a smaller nationalist ultra-right party.

Their appeal is among the lower middle classes (and some ultra conservative working class) who have been also hit hard by austerity. These voters have bought into the rhetoric that culprits behind Greece’s demise are the corrupt political elite and the large number of illegal migrants.

Golden Dawn’s popularity has fallen slightly in recent months, but it is still strong and according to recent polls it is likely to gain 6% of the vote. But the party is politically isolated, with its leadership in prison and no access to mainstream media. It is unlikely that will play any role in the forming of any government in future.

How likely is that Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s charismatic 41-year-old leader, will be “the Communist Harry Potter who could implode the eurozone”?

Despite the scaremongering that often surfaces in media reports, it is clear that the majority of Syriza representatives want to avoid having to take Greece out of the common currency. Despite some eurosceptic voices in the party, the leadership can hardly be characterised as anti-European. In internal discussions, various factions within Syriza have argued for introducing a national currency but these have remained, so far, a minority voice within the party.

Instead, the current leadership of Syriza has made numerous statements that it does not intend to destroy the euro or force Greece out of the eurozone. But they also mentioned that they are not willing to keep Greece into the eurozone at any cost. If Greece leaves the euro under Syriza, it will happen not because its leadership wants to but because it will be forced to.

This rather ambivalent message has served Syriza well both domestically and externally. Domestically, it alleviated the fears of many disaffected middle class voters who are very sceptical about a return to Drachma.

Externally, it indicates the spirit with which Syriza will approach any forthcoming negotiations with the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission). Namely, that Syriza does not share the same neoliberal economic policy agenda as Greece’s lenders – and certainly challenges Germany’s insistence on continuation of austerity – but it is willing to compromise over a mutually beneficial deal.

In terms of political rhetoric, Syriza has stated its political ambition is to change Europe as well as Greece. In what is admittedly a clever political move Syriza refused to accept the narrative of Greek exceptionalism when it comes to sovereign debt.

While attacking the incompetence and corruption of the two-party establishment that has run Greece since the 1970s, Syriza has framed the issue of Greek sovereign debt as part of the wider issue of European economic governance and, most recently, promoted the idea of a European summit on debt. In this way it opened a political space both for itself and other European political forces to change the dominant economic narrative in the EU.

Is the EU establishment going to respond? The announcement of new quantitative easing measures from the ECB marks a change in economic policy but according to chief Mario Draghi, Greece could be treated differently and any help will come with conditions. The months ahead will be tense and uncertain but one thing is for sure: nothing will be the same in Greek and European politics after Monday.

Creative Commons

Further reading:

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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