Why Greece’s Syriza party is not sticking to the script on an IMF deal

Thursday 21 May 2015 originally published at http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/greeces-syriza-party-sticking-script-imf-deal/3717

The leaked IMF document seen by Channel 4 News last weekend effectively signals a three-week endgame in the Greek debt stand-off.

The IMF thinks there is “no possibility” that Greece can meet €11bn worth of debt repayments due between June and the end of August. The Greek government is running out of cash.

Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister, told Channel 4 News last night (see video below) that faced with the choice of paying €350m due on 5 June to the IMF on 5 June, or paying pensions and salaries, he would choose the latter.

Privately, those within the ruling far-left party Syriza who were once confident of reaching a compromise with lenders, are now alarmed. Euro exit plans drawn up by the far left of the party are being studied seriously by those previously dismissive of them; articles contemplating a debt default have begun to appear in the party’s daily paper Avgi.

In the script according to the eurozone, the expected ending is: Syriza splits; finance minister Varoufakis makes good his pledge not to sign a surrender and resigns. A government of the centre-left forms, with Alexis Tsipras now allied to the centrist Potami party and with tacit support from a liberal wing of the New Democracy party. Debt relief happens, but on the terms dictated by the lenders, and Syriza survives to complete its mutation into a centre-left social democratic party.

Not sticking to the script
However, there are some who are not sticking to that script.

Zoe Konstantopoulou, a 39-year-old, Sorbonne-educated human rights lawyer who is now the speaker of the Greek parliament, is among them.

The Syriza MP has used her office set up three legal processes that could, even now, give the radical left government leverage over its lenders: a “debt truth” committee, a committee to oversee Greek war reparations claims against Germany, and a pipeline of high-level corruption cases targeted around public sector contracts with German firms.

It had been assumed in Europe that these initiatives were rhetorical, allowing Syriza to construct a narrative in government and nothing more.

Now I understand the debt truth committee has identified a tranche of Greek debt that looks – according to those who’ve seen the evidence – “unconstitutional”. Ms Konstantopoulou told me:

“There is strong evidence on the illegitimacy, odiousness and unsustainability of a large part of what is purported to be the Greek public debt.”

She warned creditors that the Greek people have the right “to demand the writing-off of the part which is not owed.”

“Pending the audit, it is unethical on the part of creditors to demand further payments while refusing disbursements and at the same time exercising extortionate pressure for the implementation of policies contrary to the public mandate,” she said.

Legal proceedings?
If the Greek parliament – not the government – were to launch legal proceedings, not only demanding write-offs and reparations but demanding the Greek government unilaterally cancel parts of the debt, that would take matters out of the hands of Syriza ministers.

“Claiming the abolition of the unsustainable part of the debt and demanding the reparations is not a matter of prerogative,” MS Konstantopoulou told me: it is a legal duty.

Though not well known in the Anglosphere, Ms Konstantopoulou is being touted among some Syriza members and MPs as a potential figurehead for opposition to the coming deal. In the past month she has toured European capitals to make Greece’s case – standing alongside Vladimir Putin at the Russian V-Day parade on 8 May.

Yesterday, as pensioners were blocked from approaching parliament by riot police, Ms Konstantopoulou stormed out of her office and confronted the police commander, live on TV. You don’t have to understand Greek to get the gist:

The symbolism was not lost on the Greek press this morning (see illustration below).

The lenders, and the centre-right in Greek politics, have calculated – correctly up to now – that the Greek lower middle class is so wedded to euro membership that a Syriza goverment that risked it would face revolt.

But on the ground things are shifting. The three months since Mr Varoufakis made what he thought was a deal that could unblock Greece’s frozen banking system have sapped people’s energy. More than €35bn has drained from the banking system.

21 greece y Why Greeces Syriza party is not sticking to the script on an IMF deal

And though recent opinion polls have found a majority in favour of staying in the Euro, 70 per cent said it should not come at the cost of giving in on the so-called “red line” issues of pension entitlements, trade union rights and reinstating laid off workers.

Those saying “stay in at all costs” are now down to 52 per cent.

The hard left of Syriza is already pushing a “negotiated” euro exit plan launched publicly this week by London University professor and Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas.

But in the weeks since the Riga summit, the main body of the party’s membership, and many of its influential journalists, have begun seriously to debate the merits of a default and exit strategy.

To the European officials trying to seal a last-minute deal, it is now no longer just the obstinacy of Germany and its allies in the ECB that they have to worry about.

They also have to anticipate the threat of a wider revolt within Syriza, and the actions the debt truth committee, both of which could throw a spanner into the works of any agreement.

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– See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/greeces-syriza-party-sticking-script-imf-deal/3717#sthash.P07jiczO.dpuf

The truth about Riga

Originally posted on Yanis Varoufakis:

It was the 24th of April. The Eurogroup meeting taking place that day in Latvia was of great importance to Greece. It was the last Eurogroup meeting prior to the deadline (30th April) that we had collectively decided upon (back in the 20th February Eurogroup meeting) for an agreement on the set of reforms that Greece would implement so as to unlock, in a timely fashion, the deadlock with our creditors.

During that Eurogroup meeting, which ended in disagreement, the media began to report ‘leaks’ from the room presenting to the world a preposterously false view of what was being said within. Respected journalists and venerable news media reported lies and innuendos concerning both what my colleagues allegedly said to me and also my alleged responses and my presentation of the Greek position.

The days and weeks that followed were dominated by these false stories which almost…

View original 525 more words

Inquiring Temporal Otherness: Timekeeping and Attitudes towards Time in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire (16th-20th c.)

International Workshop: Rethymno – Institute for Mediterranean Studies-FORTH
( October 23-24, 2015)

CALL FOR PAPERS

The diffusion and imposition of Western European timekeeping devices, systems and practices throughout the globe was accompanied by attitudes and norms towards time characterized by calculative rationality. These long historical processes of cultural transfer and socio-cultural transformation were deployed in uneven and, at times, conflictual manner throughout the modern era. Being to a large extent by-product of these processes, the construction of temporal otherness of non-Western societies by European episteme has suffered sweeping and just critiques, mostly in anthropological literature. Nonetheless, as our world gets more and more globalized and attuned to the universal Clock and Calendar Time, cultural difference in the attitudes towards time, real or imagined, continues to inform public discourse and the perceptions and constructions of the Other and the Self. This observation supports the thesis that temporal “modernization” has been an uneven, inherently contradictory and probably perennially incomplete process which cannot be meaningfully understood unless the historical experience of non-Western societies be taken seriously into consideration.

The history of timekeeping systems and practices, as well as of the attitudes towards time in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire has long been neglected or overshadowed by the dominant Eurocentric and Orientalist modernization paradigm. Nevertheless, the last years we are witnessing a novel, theoretically informed, interest in relevant questions, mostly by Ottomanist and to a lesser extent by Balkanist social historians and historians of architecture, a research activity which gradually sets the ground for a successful inscription of the regional historical record and experience to the broader global picture.
The aim of our workshop is to enhance regional cooperation by bringing together scholars working on the history of time in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire and explore the possibilities for further joint research ventures.
We therefore invite papers falling under the following broad topics:
– Attitudes towards time, work and leisure in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans and their transformation.

– Representations and construction of temporal otherness in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire

– Timekeeping systems and practices in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans.

– Diffusion, users and uses of mechanical clocks and watches in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire.

– Clock-towers and public timekeeping in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans.

– Processes of temporal “modernization”, “secularization” and “westernization”.

The workshop will take place at the premises of IMS-FORTH in the old town of Rethymnon. As organizers we will provide accommodation and meals, and do our best to cover some airfares. But as the current economic crisis impedes our effort to obtain sponsorship for the workshop, it would be a great help if those participants who can pay for their airfares from other funds, do so.
Deadline for the submission of paper proposals is June 15th 2015. Please send by then the title and abstract of your paper and a short CV to the following email addresses:
dimitrios.charitatos@gmail.com
lyberatos@gmail.com
sariyannis@ims.forth.gr

Andreas Lyberatos, Assistant Professor, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences/ IMS-FORTH
Marinos Sariyannis, Principal Researcher, IMS-FORTH
Dimitrios Charitatos, Post-doctoral Fellow, IMS-FORTH

FT’s Peter Spiegel denies that Varoufakis was called ‘time-waster’ and ‘gambler’ at Riga Eurogroup

published at newsbomb.gr

Financial Times journalist Peter Spiegel on Thursday confirmed Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ denial of press reports that claimed he’d been personally insulted by EU colleagues at the Eurogroup in Riga.
“It is 100% accurate @yanisvaroufakis not personally insulted at Riga #eurogroup. Words “gambler”, “amateur”, “time-waster” never uttered,” Spiegel tweeted on Thursday.
In a second tweet, he emphasised that his reporting “says those words were never uttered.”
Varoufakis responded, also via Twitter, saying he was “glad to see the truth emerge – even belatedly…”
Read more: http://www.newsbomb.gr/en/story/589012/ft-s-peter-spiegel-denies-that-varoufakis-was-called-time-waster-and-gambler-at-riga-eurogroup#ixzz3axPKAthy

Greek PM Tsipras in Riga Summit Hoping for Deal

Philip Chrysopoulos published at http://greece.greekreporter.com

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is traveling to Riga today (Thursday) to meet with German

Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Fransois Hollande hoping that they will offer political aid in unlocking negotiations and coming to a deal on the Greek debt.

Tsipras will meet with the two country leaders on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Latvia that focuses on Eastern European issues. The Greek PM hopes that Merkel and Hollande will spur technical talks in order to expedite a comprehensive deal between Greece and its creditors by the end of May. He will tell his counterparts that Greece has a comprehensive list of reform proposals and is willing to make concessions in order to come to an “honest deal”, as he has publicly stated.

From their part, Merkel and Hollande have said that they want the process of deliberations to be expedited and come to an agreement soon. Tsipras also hopes that he can secure an emergency Eurogroup before the end of May in order to unlock crucial aid.

The Greek government wants low primary surplus targets, no pension and wage cuts, no mass layoffs, debt restructuring and financing for an economic growth plan.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has recently expressed his worry about the state of the Greek economy, while his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble stated on Wednesday that he could not guarantee that Greece will not default.

The state coffers have less than 800 million euros, while Bank of Greece received on Wednesday 200 million euros from the European Central Bank under the emergency liquidity assistance scheme.

The Greek prime minister is going to Riga with the extra burden of dissent within the SYRIZA party, and especially the so-called left platform. Several SYRIZA cabinet members and lawmakers insist that the austere reforms required by lenders go against the party’s campaign pledges. Some actually call for default and a direct rift with lenders and Europe.

– See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/05/21/greek-pm-tsipras-in-riga-summit-hoping-for-deal/#sthash.YGvv1dcS.dpuf

Regarding the Minister’s reference to the SMP-program Greek Government bonds held by the ECB

The Minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis, in his keynote address at the Economist Athens Conference, referred to the idea that the ECB’s SMP-program Greek government (pre-2012) bonds (face value appr. 27 billion euros) be repaid through the ESM, with a possible parallel swap between new Greek government bonds and the ESM.

Some journalists chose to report this as the Minister having threatened, or announced, that the Greek government would not redeem the SMP-program Greek government bonds held by the ECB in July and August. This type of ‘journalism’ must, at long last, be isolated and shamed by the vast majority of journalists striving properly to inform the public.

http://minfin.gr/?q=en/news/news/regarding-minister’s-reference-smp-program-greek-government-bonds-held-ecb

V. TSIANOS: THE MILITARISTIC TACKLING OF IMMIGRATION HAS BEEN DECIDED

May 11, 2015 Published in Epohi translated for http://www.analyzegreece.gr

Interview with Vasilis Tsianos by Ioanna Drosou

Last Thursday a special summit took place concerning the confrontation of the increased migration flows in the Mediterranean Sea. The Chairman of the Council of Europe, Mr. Tusk stated that “the situation in the Mediterranean concerns the whole of Europe, so we must act together, as one power”. How do you judge the proposals that were discussed?
Before answering your question it is necessary to make a conceptual distinction. The term “migration flows”, especially with the humanitarian disaster that we are currently experiencing at the borders, is at least problematic. It has to be understood that the discussion must turn to the crisis that the security systems are facing, as far as dealing with European asylum policy issues is concerned. The 276.000 arrivals over the Mediterranean that were recorded last year –and which are expected to increase at 350.000 this year– in their vast majority do not concern migration flows, but rather potential refugees. This clarification is necessary because identifying the immigration policy with the asylum policy is politically dangerous.
Europe’s proposal, as it was presented with the ten points of Mr. Avramopoulos, has nothing new to offer. It is the militarized version of a series of programs that have been discussed in the past ten years in the European Commission and the European Parliament. Continue reading