Department of Yikes

…his German counterpart [finance minister] suggested postponing Greek elections and installing [sic] a new government without political parties.

I do understand the financial motive here, but this is not a good idea!  It is even less of a good idea to say so in public.  Is the goal simply to irritate the Greeks so much that they leave the Eurozone on their own?  Twitter rumors are suggesting that Finland and the Netherlands are raising similar ideas, namely postponing elections and, it seems, simply ruling the country through its budget?  I am not sure how this is supposed to work, or to be received in Greece, or why it should be a good precedent for the European Union.  The FT story is here.

Comments

An even worst idea when coming from a german...
And Merkel officially campaigning for Sarkozy in the French presidential election is an idea so totally fubb you wonder if Merkel' head is like Oakland: "There's no there there".
How Merkel and Schaüble handled the whole mess will provide carreers to political scientist for the next two centuries.

We went over this earlier today. You just don't understand the German sense of humour!

Zing!

I believe it is pronounced "Zaggengiggen!."

I also guess that the intimidation is way too big to be meant seriously. They may want to force Greece outside EU, not just eurozone.

On the other hand, some of the bureaucratic types are so rigid and emotion-less that they may genuinely lack comprehension of the situation. Much more so when they never visited Greece, or only done so on official visits (= totally separated from the street people).

Yikes is right! The traditional response to this type of activity is violent resistance, including not only mass events such as riots but smaller-scale activities such as bombings and shootings. The Greeks have a history of violent domestic groups, there is a reasonably widespread Greek diaspora in Europe and little to stop cross-border movement. The Germans may find that this policy quite literally blows up in their faces.

As a German, I'll better be careful on my next visit to Greece.

There is some irony in the fact that German tourists in Greece may get kidnapped with use of German weapons, which are plentiful in Greek military.

Yes they want Greece to leave or if they stay, they must be totally under control. Pour encourager les autres.

+1.

From what I understand there is no legal means or process for Germany and Co. to "kick" Greece out of the euro. However, there is nothing which can stop Greece from exiting the euro of their own free will. So infuriating Greece or setting impossible terms would be a possible means of achieving the latter.

Germany shows it's true colours, no surprise here

It is my contention that they wanted Greece out the EZ for at least a few months now. This whole charade is the ECB/Germany/France buying time to shore up their banks. The now obvious goading is proof that the firewalls are in place and the powers that be could not care less if Greece now defaults. In fact, they secretly want it, but would rather Greece leave the negotiating table than the troika doing so. The real game is already over; this is just showmanship right now.

"The real game is already over; this is just showmanship right now."
I actually prefer this interpretation but I am afraid there could be more hope than truth in it.

+1 to D. Greece is a sideshow, a tiny country whose debts are ready to be written off.

The real story is what happens in 2-3 years with Italy, Spain, etc. When the LTRO stops. If in fact it does.

Good point. I think de facto moneyprinting is going to be the most palatable solution to the technocrats, assiduously disguised to assuage the citizens of countries like Germany that will get the inflation without the money. Whether the euro can survive that is an open question.

I'd worry about Portugal before Italy. Italy has problems, but they're not as bad as Greece. I believe what D says is true. I also believe that there's some additional egging happening -- Germany et al want it to be bad post-exit as an object lesson to Portugal and/or Spain.

"why it should be a good precedent for the European Union. "

Of course it's not. All these proposals only show the complete desperation of the political class in Europe. The Euro itself always has been a project of technocrats but is still regarded as politically indispensable ("war or peace"). They are now even ready to sacrifiy democracy for it. Their horse is dead, so now they shoot others.

"installing [sic]"

I do not think that was a [sic].

Indeed, as any frequent traveller should know.

Is the goal simply to irritate the Greeks so much that they leave the Eurozone on their own?

Yes. This has been the purpose since about September.

I'm guessing the next move is to do the debt deal, but only release just enough money for that. So the money comes in from the EU, but goes right out again, with nothing for Greece "until you clean up your budget." The Greeks then realize this is no better than bankruptcy, and leave. Perhaps with a delay while they print up some currency.

Your take?

Exactly right. None of the bailout money is/was ever going to be spent on Greeks. Up until about last Summer, I think the Troika had hopes that Greece could pay back some of the debt, but by the end of last Summer, it became apparent that Greece would be able to pay nothing going forward, and they decided to drive them out of the Euro with ever escalating demands.

That should have been "never be able". I need to proofread more carefully.

Why is it so important that they leave on their own? Why not kick them out? Global image?

That, and no actual mechanism to 'kick them out'

I find the Greek government (http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/evangelos_venizelos/) and protesters much more irritating than countries who can manage their own finances.

Isn't part of managing your finances not lending to bad credit risks?

How about when countries that can manage their own finances (Germany) forcing countries who cannot (Greece) to use part of the money they are lending to buy defective submarines (http://www.expatica.com/de/news/german-rss-news/greece-to-resell-german-submarine:-minister_31670.html)? How about when you enter a currency union, you are the first to break whatever pact you had others sign, because you are the big gun so rules don't really apply to you, force everyone into a monetary policy regime for years that only benefited you, and force your own citizens into stagnant wages in order to grow your export sector for the benefit of your industrialists and at the expense of your partners?

I keep finding it amazing how the one people in the whole world who knows what happens when you treat a country with vengeance and when you treat it with mercy have completely forgotten their own history.

Judging from the news coverage of mass demonstrations, rioting, and burning in Athens, I'm guessing they're well on their way to success.

How's that work out in 1941?

Very poorly for the Greeks, but even worse for the Germans a few years later.

Actually the first King of Greece came from Bavaria, and the subsequent kings, which they eventually got rid of, were Danes, so this sort of intervention predates World War I. You also had some pretty serious intervention by several European countries (not Germany this time) in 1915-17, and of course Greek independence, if you can call it that, from the Turks was something of a pan-European project.

This stuff is really nothing new, think of the Dominican Republic or Panama vs. the US but substitute archeological ruins for baseball players.

If they are really trying to goad the Greeks into defaulting and leaving the EU, these maneuvers sort of make sense.

+1. Greece is a 'third world' country that happens to be attached to Europe, and has tremendous historical importance that allows it to punch above its weight in terms of attention and aid from the 'first world'. DR or Panama indeed.

Good for them, now they should deliver the knockout blow to the Germanic monster

Uh, no. It's a rounding error for Germany.

Have you been to Greece or Panama or the DR?

Agamemnon came from Bavaria? You learn something new on the internet every day.

Agamemnon was the king of a single Greek city state. My (very limited) understanding of Greek history is that the city states were independent up until the Roman conquest, and hence there was no single king of Greece until much later.

The European project has long been deemed too important to let democratic concerns stand in the way of ever-closer integration. Next proposal: postponing elections in Germany until the situation is "stabilized." But seriously, what's the point of bailing out Greece right before an election will give a new Greek government the chance to repudiate the terms?

The entire concept of the EU is that democracy is bunk.

I would have found that hyperbole in the past, but I am starting to wonder.

No more, nor less, than that the concept of the US is that democracy is bunk. The extent to which countries integrate economically is the extent to which they can give up their sovereignty to the aggregate.

"He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe."

Europe's had a recurring fascination with various forms of autocracy now and again since 1776.

Nice citation, but Jean-François Revel never was a socialist. He was on the center-right, with marked anti-communist, anti-gaullist and pro-american tendencies.

That may be because the quote is so old (1965). Apparently Revel was originally a socialist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Revel

I like your fine posts a lot TallDave, but Revel is actually one of the most tolerable French thinkers of the last decades. He even wrote an excellent book on anti-Americanism. Which is saying a lot, because his countrymen wrote THE book on anti-Americanism.

Center-right French, that's what he said, socialist, right?

True, but apparently that happened sometime after the Tom Wolfe quote.

A socialist until the late 1960s, Revel was a speechwriter for socialist President François Mitterrand and ran as a socialist candidate in parliamentary elections in 1967 but lost.

It's a Tom Wolfe quote from 1965.

I shouldn't wonder that the Greeks feel a bit like the guy in the Life of Brian who's about to be stoned for saying Jehovah. "How it can it get any worse?"

Outstanding. Much LOL.

Is it too soon to start talking about the breakup of the EU?

Yes. Unless Greece leaving counts as 'breakup'. I don't think any others will.

Why would Greece want to leave?
Even without the Euro, they'll get plenty in subsidies as one of the poorer countries.

When almost every nation in the EU is increasingly fighting for their national benefit and rights, the EU is increasingly destructive of those rights. The EU politicians call democracy "populism" and already have imposed puppet governments on Greece and Italy. Now they are openly calling for an end to democracy, which many euro-skeptics claimed was the goal all along. The EU and the population of member states are moving in opposite directions; "nationalist" candidates are gaining greater and greater vote shares in each election. Talking about Greece leaving the euro was not taken seriously in 2008, let alone 2000 when many economists and others said it would fail. The CIA even predicted the EU would breakup by 2020 and they're neither the first nor do they make the most compelling argument.

if it's anything like election season has been in the US, then there's a good chance postponing will make citizens' less depressed

People forget how recently democracy came to Greece. It was only in 1974 that the Colonels left. Most of southern Europe was undemocratic until the late 1970s. The exception is Italy and Italy seems to be handling this better than the rest.

So what do you do if you have a country of people who don't really get democracy? At least they do not seem to get the idea that they cannot vote themselves all the money they want without working for it. The traditional Latin solution is an Army coup which restores the country's finances until the restoration of democracy which loots the state once more.

The Germans are just realising that there is a problem with the culture of Greece. It is a place where responsible politics have not taken root. The solution seems to be a military coup but that is probably out. The three Far Left political parties have about 50% support in recent opinion polls. So even if the Germans don't get their way, and even if the Army stays in the barracks, the Greek voters seem determined to end democracy by themselves. It is just a question of what sort of undemocratic regime they are going to have. Voting for the Communists is perhaps best because then they cannot blame anyone but themselves.

You know, culture really does matter.

I know your point, but didn't democracy come to Greece, like, before anywhere else in the whole world?

To Athens, anyway.

I hate to do more Greek bashing, but ancient Athens became important because of its silver mines worked with slave labor. Maybe it was a democracy by the standards of the time, but not by ours. And there is little to connect ancient Athens with modern Greece, or their democracy with modern democratic institutions, both of the latter have their origins more in the Middle Ages.

Yes, our democracy never employed slave labor or had strict eligibility rules, like land-ownership, for voting.

a) It was also utterly destroyed and left no traces for 20 centuries.
b) Many Greek states were tyrannies, and contemporary Greece is more of a heir to Byzantium than to Athens.

I would still revive the institution of ostracization, though. Not just in Greece.

"I know your point, but didn’t democracy come to Greece, like, before anywhere else in the whole world?" Which means that Greece was the first place in the world to lose Democracy.

For German voters, transferring money to Greece is increasingly becoming a hard sell. It's not so much a problem of culture as of comparative wealth and standard of living. In many job categories, Greeks earn as well or better than Germans, home ownership in Greece is between 70 and 80 percent while Germany home ownership is stuck around 40 percent, with those homes and the piece of land they sit on much smaller in Germany (also many Greeks own two properties — their home (used on weekends) and their apartment in the city in which they work.) And while their is real envy for the Greek climate, it's also a practical cost factor: home heating and maintenance in the damp and colder North also takes a major cut out of German salaries. Merkel is very much aware that she is treading a thin line with her voters who do not want to see themselves as "subsidizing the Greek lifestyle."

Genau!

From what I know, Greek home ownership rate cannot even be determined. There is no registry of land ownership / deeds in Greece, is there?

Ignorance in this forum is just off the charts. So, I'm just gonna say what wikipedia could have told you in 2 minutes. The Colonels left in 74 but only came in 67 - it wasn't a generation long regime like Franco or Salazar. And guess who was the only ally they had in the world.... After WW2, there was a devastating civil war for almost 5 years, as Greece provided the setting for the start of the Cold War. Not removing the blame off of us, but Britain (to whom Greece was assigned in Yalta) was instrumental in fomenting the Civil War. And it goes further deep into the past, this continuing meddling of the Great Powers in the affairs of Greece and all other small European states. Because Europe as it was by 2008 was a very new thing. Before WW2, Britain-France-Germany-Russia treated the rest of Europe and the Middle East much as the US treated Latin America after WW2.

Furthermore, the 50% far left thing you mention. 18% of that goes to a new formation which is essentially social democrat. If you don't think social democrats are democratic fine, but most people people do. Another 12-14% goes to the leftist party Syriza, very populist, but not communist at all, and only 12-14% goes to the Communist party (which are a disaster). So seriously, do your homework before writing stuff down. And for the record, I am Greek but live in the US, and I cannot possibly imagine an institution where responsible politics are as absent as they are in the GOP.

There seems to be a rule that people who throw insults on the internet are invariably guilty of the same thing. I would not accuse other people of ignorance if I were you, especially when making blunders like this. The British had no role whatsoever in formenting the Civil War. The Greek Communist Party spent most of the War murdering Greeks who did not agree with them to create Stalinist base areas purged of any non-Communist influence. After 1945 they refused to stop doing so. Even though Stalin, honoring his agreement with Churchill, cut them off from direct support. When they refused to do so, it was inevitable that the Greek government, with the support of the British, would stop them doing so. Which they did. The cause was the murderous intentions of the Communists. Nothing else. Had they turned to democratic and peaceful politics in 1945 there would have been no civil war.

Meddling? You mean like the way the European power created an independent Greece in the first place? The bastards! It is unfair to compare the way the Europeans treated Greece with the way the Americans treated Latin America. Latin America had something America wanted - bananas.

Nice that you do not tell us what Syriza means isn't it? Its head is Alekos Alavanos - a long-time member of the European Parliament and now Greece's for the Greek Communist Party. Syriza is short for the Coalition of the Radical Left. Not exactly Social Democratic. Its members include AKOA, or the Renewed Communist Ecological Left, and DEA, the Internationalist Workers Left and KEDA a splinter of the Greek Communist Party.

God knows why people might view these people as on the Far Left.

Ha. It's funny how you perpetuate far right Greek myths about communists in WW2. I could go on about this and about the nice benign Great Powers creating (sic) an independent Greece and then instering monarch after monarch from the good in their hearts, but there really is no point going further since you are just so completely wrong on everything else you write. You obviously just looked up Syriza and are in fact wrong about its head - Alavanos was replaced by Tsipras almost 4 years ago and is not even in the party anymore. And no I didn't mean them when I was talking about social democrats, I was talking Dimokratiki Aristera (Democratic Left) which was formed a few months ago and is currently 2nd in the opinion polls.

No one expects you to know the ins and outs of Greece's left - why do you pretend that you do?

What myths? What there was untrue? The Greek Communists probably killed more non-Communist Greeks than Nazis in World War Two.

Yes, why don't you admit the nice benign Europeans sacrificed selflessly (up to their lives in some cases) for Greek independence which was of no interest or use to them whatsoever?

Sorry, I don't keep up with Far Left Greek groups. My mistake. By why didn't you point out that Alavanos was the former head of an alliance between Greece's two main Communist Parties? Which now makes up a large chunk of Syriza? Ignoring the other Communist parties in the alliance that is.

And you did mean them. You described Syriza as "not Communist at all". Despite being an alliance of half a dozen splinter groups from the old Stalinist Communist Party plus the old Stalinist Communist Party.

So if you're talking about the Democratic Left, I will go and look them up. What do you know, their leader is someone called Kouvelis. A founding member of the Greek Communist Party (Interior). Sure, not Communist at all. Definitely Democratic Socialism at work there.

The Greeks are determined to get rid of democracy. If the Germans or the Army won't do it for them, they will vote an end to it themselves.

http://www.google.com/search?q=german+invasion+of+greece&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGLL_en

This was further exacerbated by a "war loan" which Greece was forced to grant to the German Reich. This "loan" was never paid back and severely devalued the Drachma.

Problem solved!

Even the left-leaning BBC is piling on the Greeks. And it is not just the Germans who are dissatisfied, so stop with the anti-German stuff.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17040565

"The truth is that EU officials and European ministers have been burnt before. It is not just that the accounts were faked in 2009. It is that so few of the conditions that came with the first bailout in May 2010 have been fulfilled.

Greece was supposed to slash the numbers of workers in the public sector. Up until the middle of last year they were still hiring.

There was a promise to raise 50bn euros (£42bn; $66bn) from privatisation. They just might raise 1.5bn euros from a telecom sale. Beyond that - as one official told me in Athens - the pledges were a "work of fiction".

There was also a promise to cut down on tax evasion. Little has changed. There is still an estimated 60bn euros of uncollected taxes owing."

I think this is actually pretty significant that the BBC are sending this out. Normally they cleave to the official line by the EU without much comment, regurgitating whatever the EU spinners are putting out without criticism or any kind of questioning. If the BBC are saying stuff like this, then the game must really be up with Greece.

The EU is like the modern day equivalents of the East India Company - they have no other purpose other than their own survival, so if the EU feels like Greece could bring it down, either its full control or the Greeks are out.

The Beeb has an EU policy of always fawning on the EU. So you may take whatever it says as being the EU's current line on an issue.

Is Monti democratically elected?

He has the support of the majority of members of the Italian Parliament, yes.

So Hu Jintao is also democratically elected?

By the democratics standards of ancient Athens, yes.

That's not fair. The ancient Athenians actually allowed a change of ruling party. They had elections where at least the able bodied males with citizenship were allowed to vote. Hu is elected by no one. He is maintained in power by the support of the six other members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. No one else.

The comparison is with ancient Persia. Except the ancient Persian Kings of Kings answered to a large political constituency than Hu does.

Europeans have run out of patience with Greece, that's it.
We have been paying and paying and Greece is just laughing in our face: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/evangelos_venizelos/

As a German, I would love to keep Greece in the EU and in the Euro. I just don't see why that means that I would have to prop them up. Even if they default, the Greek economy is so small, it won't harm the Euro.

So who gets the money you've been paying and paying? (Hint: not the Greeks.)

The Greek gov't spent that money, and now they're not going to pay it back.

A lot of people think giving them more money isn't the best solution.

Do yourself a favor and stop reading Bild. Because apparently you think people demonstrate on mass for shits and giggles.

shut up you greek homo

Seriously, that's all you got?

Germany has done extraordinarily well out of the euro project up until now, benefitting from what has been, for them, an artificially low exchange rate - resulting in last year's trillion euro trade surplus.

The majority of the Greek populace are a very long way from 'laughing in our face'. Quite the contrary.

Here's another 'moral' perspective that is it, at the very least, equally convincing:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9077586/Germanys-Carthaginian-terms-for-Greece.html
"...The US, Canada, Britain, France, Greece, and other signatories at the London Debt Agreement of 1953 granted Chancellor Konrad Adenauer a 50pc haircut on all German debt, worth 70pc in relief with stretched maturities. There was a five-year moratorium on interest payments.
The express purpose was to give Germany enough oxygen to rebuild its economy, and to help hold the line against Soviet overreach. This sweeping debt forgiveness caused heartburn for the British - then in dire financial straits, themselves forced to go cap in hand to Washington for loans. The Greeks had to forgo some war reparations.
Yet statesmanship prevailed. The finance ministers of the day agreed to overlook the moral origins of that debt, and the moral hazard of “rewarding” a country that had so disturbed the European order..."

Exports are a cost on a society, not a benefit. You trade real production for paper promises of dubious nature. Only if those promises are honored in real goods comming back are then valuable.

Stupid Nazis. Blank check as far as the eye can see.

"an artificially low exchange rate"

It's Germany's fault they're more productive than the Greeks?

Well, okay, technically this is the fault of the EU, who should have realized this was going to be problem.

asdf:

Yeah, you can see that in the way that Japan, and more recently China, went from first world to third world economies by becoming big exporters.

Curious. Japans strategy led to giant property and equity bubbles and two decades of stagnation. Their debt to GDP is now around 300%, young people are chronically underemployed, and they face a massive demographic crisis.

China faces many of the same problems. Like Japan, once catch up growth of copying western technology is over their growth is done.

Can someone explain how this is any less democratic or any more outrageous than much of what happens in the EU?

How about when national elections vote down treaties and they ratify them anyway? How about when courts in Brussels invalidate national laws, which is pretty common? How about the attempt to sanction Austria because an excessively right wing party had come to power?

A new line might have been crossed here, but it doesn't seem to be much further out than stuff that's common in the EU. It is an institution designed to suppress democracy.

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