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The Battle Begins
Morever, in his narrative Varoufakis conceals the extent of the opposition to this agreement within the Syriza parliamentary group and leadership. Varoufakis minimizes the opposition met by the 20 February agreement as this enables him to underplay his own responsibility.
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In his book Varoufakis constantly refers to the measures he claims to have proposed to Tsipras to oppose the ill will of the European leaders. Varoufakis, on the other hand, claims that the dissuasion measures he mentions in the book had been accepted by the Tsipras inner circle in November and it was on this basis that he accepted the portfolio of Minister of Finance in January Tooze rightly gives greater importance to a unilateral write-down of Greek bonds, whereas Mason is more interested in the parallel payments system.
The trouble is that this threat was never, not even in whispers, ever mentioned to the Troika. Neither was it ever made public. Varoufakis admits that. As for putting it into practice, as we shall see later, Tsipras and the majority of his cabinet were firmly against it and Varoufakis went along with them to the bitter end in July It was all very hush-hush, the rest of the government and the Syriza directorate were never informed and the Greek people were kept in total ignorance.
Were we to make that error, I argued, they would drag us through the mud over the period of the extension and then, at the moment of our greatest weakness, around the end of June, slaughter us. For Varoufakis, measures as strong as Greek bond Bond A bond is a stake in a debt issued by a company or governmental body. The holder of the bond, the creditor, is entitled to interest and reimbursement of the principal. If the company is listed, the holder can also sell the bond on a stock-exchange.
Mason explains that for Varoufakis, measures as strong as Greek bond write-downs or parallel payment systems are weapons of deterrent power. In other words, weapons that should not be used. Varoufakis believed that the threat of such measures would be sufficient to make the European leaders cede. Of course threats must be backed by actions. While Tooze insists on bond write-downs as an arm against the creditors, Mason puts the emphasis on creating a parallel payments system.
And in the worst case, if the creditors still refused to accept anything but the existing package, the parallel payments system would become the basis for a new currency, allowing a gradual transition out of the euro instead of a wrenching leap … The greatest strength of the political establishment in Europe—as of political establishments everywhere—is the perception that their rule is an unchangeable fact, that there is no alternative.
The sight of Greece still standing—businesses running, people working and paying bills, public services functioning—after the ECB had done its worst would severely damage this aura of inevitability. Mason also considered that it was fundamental for the Tsipras government to take back control of the Central Bank. I agree with this. What is more, Mason believes that Varoufakis was wrong to refuse to introduce controls on the movements of capital. These bonds dating from were still under Greek jurisdiction.
The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher… The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted.
The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation. The objective is to pay the pensions of the employees that take part in the scheme. They manage very big amounts of money that are usually invested on the stock markets or financial markets. The Greek government had not only the moral right, but quite simply the right to write-down or repudiate these bonds.
This proposition by Varoufakis was quite correct; the trouble is he never took this action while he was minister. He just folded under the pressure. Varoufakis accepted concession after concession and never made public his disagreements, nor his alternative proposals, until the day after the second capitulation on 13 July Tooze rightly mentions the unfruitful contacts the Tsipras government made with China, Russia and the US and his remarks are largely correct.
The old left wing of the party looked to Russia. In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. But from Moscow and Beijing, Greece received the same answer: you must come to terms with Germany. The same message came from Washington.
Varoufakis leant toward Britain and the US. But when Germany made its position clear, the US pulled back. As one American official told Varoufakis, Washington would not meddle. Varoufakis had hoped to convince the Chinese government, in March , to purchase Greek Government treasury bills to a value of several billion Euros.
The product of which he hoped to use to pay IMF instalments. That would certainly not have benefited the Greek people or helped them retain some measure of sovereignty. Mason and Tooze forget that a solution to the banking crisis much more than just having access to liquidities was essential. The programme on which Syriza was elected clearly included taking complete control of the banks and creating a development bank. As we have seen, Varoufakis opposed the Syriza programme. It is very surprising that Mason and Tooze say nothing about this.
This may be because, once Varoufakis became Finance Minister, Tsipras and Dragasakis, the Deputy Prime Minister, quickly relieved him of his authority over the banks. It is impossible to apply measures contrary to the Troika wishes and the Memoranda without strong measures concerning the banks. Varoufakis was aware of this and accepted to conform to this attitude. This was a decisive factor in the capitulation. Neither do Mason and Tooze mention the initiative taken to audit the Greek debt that was launched by Zoe Konstantopoulou, the President of the Greek Parliament, with the support, albeit unenthusiastic, of Alexis Tsipras.
This initiative, the likes of which had never before been seen in Europe, was widely supported by the Greek population, but Varoufakis took no part in it. Although he claims to have supported the Truth Committee on Public Debt, in reality he did nothing at all. He did not believe in it, he was convinced that questioning the legality or the legitimacy of the debt would be of no use. Varoufakis shows a serious lack of knowledge of the history of sovereign debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government.
Debt repayments should have been suspended as of February to avoid emptying the State coffers to the profit of the IMF. The IMF was the single public beneficiary of Greek government debt Government debt The total outstanding debt of the State, local authorities, publicly owned companies and organs of social security. The Greek government could very well have divided the creditors by announcing a suspension of IMF payments only.
On what does Tooze base his two claims that the majority of the Greek population did not want to risk breaking away, and that Tsipras was right to take this fact into account? Tsipras had not foreseen that. It must be remembered that the referendum took place in the context of ECB reprisals, entirely cutting off liquidities to Greece, and the Greek banks were closed. Tooze and Mason do not ask what alliances Varoufakis could have forged in order to resist the nefarious direction Tsipras had taken.
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If Varoufakis had really wanted to make the Greek government unilaterally decide on a write-down on the Greek bonds held by the ECB, create a parallel payments system, suspend debt repayments to the IMF, he should have sought alliances with favourable tendencies within Syriza, the Government and the Parliament. He was an accomplice to all the concessions. If he had really wanted to take this measure he would have had to pass an Act of Parliament. Varoufakis remained in the cosy little circle around Tsipras.
The measures that the Tsipras government should have taken from the beginning and at least from 5 February I maintain, as do others, that a very different orientation from the one adopted by Varoufakis and the small circle around Tsipras should have been taken. To apply the Thessaloniki Programme, the Tsipras government should have taken the following initiatives and measures:. Such a measure would have immediately improved the situation of 3. This book has the suspense and intrigue of a good novel, rounded off with a good dose of betrayal.
This turnaround was also contrary to the will of the people who had elected the political organization to office on the basis of strong commitments. After the Syriza-Anel government was formed it was more than just the will of the Syriza base that was not respected, it was the will of the Greek people who had brought the Tsipras government to power on the basis of a radical program put forward during the campaign. From the beginning of the negotiations with the European leaders, Tsipras and Varoufakis showed their lack of real determination to end the Memoranda, debt, privatizations and the power of the banks, to increase pensions and wages, among other essential measures.
Varoufakis claims a central role, and he did indeed have significant influence over the policies adopted by the Tsipras-Pappas-Dragasakis trio who used him as a trump card for five months up to the 5 July referendum. After which, they got rid of him by withdrawing his ministerial portfolio, leading him to resign. Varoufakis never publicly mentioned his disagreement while he was Minister.
He accepted secret diplomacy. He never called on Greek public support or international solidarity. He never had the courage to resign before 6 July, even though he had his letter of resignation always in his pocket, regularly updated. Of course, I do not accept the explanations that he gives but his insight is irreplaceable and should be taken seriously. Varoufakis continues to be politically active and preaches a perspective of consensual reform of the European Union and the Eurozone that do not take into account the lessons of Dragasakis was clearly opposed to anything that would go against the interests of the private Greek banks, and was also against the audit of the debt and suspension of repayments.
He was favourable to remaining in the Eurozone. Dragasakis had had ties to bankers for many years. He himself had been a board member of a medium-sized commercial bank. In a way he served as the bridge between Tsipras and the bankers. Syriza was a new group whose political leaders had relatively little involvement in the spheres of the State — unlike the PASOK, for example, whose history is linked to the Republic and management of State affairs.
Only 15 per cent of this sum would be required in tax arrears, payable via web banking or debit card. In the passage that follows, due to lack of space, I discuss only the main proposals. Varoufakis, op. Putting this proposal into practice — that is, pooling the public debts of the Eurozone — would have involved a joint decision by the governments of the Zone to ease public finances and abandon austerity policies.
We had more evidence of popular support for the Tsipras government when the 5 July referendum was decided at the end of June Both are again subject to approval by the Eurogroup. See Yanis Varoufakis, chapter 5, p. Lafazanis, N. Chountis, D. Stratoulis, C. Note that in the first Tsipras government, there were only six ministers, the remaining members of the government being considered alternate ministers.
It stipulated that jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the banks had been moved from the Ministry of Finance to the office of the deputy prime minister. In this long letter, Y. He declares that if Greece were to suspend debt repayments, it would have to leave the Eurozone and would find itself back in the Stone Age. This text published by Varoufakis a few days after the parliamentary vote expresses once again all his contradictory positions.
Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt. I would like to add the following to the summary Tooze makes. My narrative is not a substitute for his, but should be read in parallel. What is fundamental is to conduct an analysis of the politico-economic orientation that was put into practice in order to determine the causes of its failure, to see what could have been attempted in its place and to draw conclusions as to what a government of the radical Left can do in a country in the periphery of the Eurozone. Varoufakis-Tsipras move towards the disastrous agreement with the Eurogroup of 20 February Part 7.
The first capitulation of Tsipras and Varoufakis at the end of February Part 8. To gain access, the banks whether public or private must deposit financial securities Financial securities Financial securities include equity securities issued by companies in the form of shares shares, holdings, investment certificates, etc. A distinction is made between real guarantees lien, pledge, mortgage, prior charge and personal guarantees surety, aval, letter of intent, independent guarantee.
The ECB may consider that the instruments that are deposited are doubtful, either because they lack sufficient guarantees or are low quality. In this case it may block access to further funds. The only way out for the banks in difficulty is to get emergency liquidities from the national central bank Central Bank The establishment which in a given State is in charge of issuing bank notes and controlling the volume of currency and credit. This is a costly solution.
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Should the national central banks do this they must demand a high-risk interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. Moreover the available amounts are limited and evolve weekly. Again, the ECB must agree and may limit the volume of liquidities to be made available. The negative consequences of the decision made on 4 February were immediate.
First, the Greek banks were forced to pay higher rates to have access to liquidities, which weakened their positions. Second, short-term financing for the Greek State became much more difficult. This meant that the liquidities granted by the ECB were used to purchase short-term less than one year Greek treasury bills.