While Greece is celebrating – well, sort of… - the end of its latest (the third in a row) Adjustment Programme of the 8years-plus bailout by its European partners, a number of political figures – Klaus Regling of the ESM, Pierre Moscovici and Vladis Dombrovskis of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron from a higher political level – have been offering their testimonials, their assessments and their evaluations of the Greek bailout. A cliffhanger at times; a costly affair in many terms - mainly human/social terms for Greeks and Greece.
It may well be that the most useful testimonial – since arising from direct, continuous experience over several years – may well prove the one coming from Jeroen Dijjsselbloem who chaired the Eurogroup when Greece, the Greek bailout, the potential Grexit, options and Programmes and the suchlike were discussed. At great length, in frustrating repetition. Dijsselbloem’s book De Eurocrisis will be soon available in Greek by Kerkyra Publications-Economia Publishing; it recounts in vivid detail the negotiations and the uphill struggle to keep Greece – but also Cyprus, as well other periphery countries – in the Eurozone; but also to keep the euro venture going – and , in fact, to keep the overall balance in Europe. Starting from the day (in early 2015) he met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: (“a constructive discussion; he was very friendly, he spoke in a calm but steady way; at times, speaking of the difficulties the Greek people had to endure and of the humanitarian crisis, he looked moved [...] He vowed he wanted to be the first Greek P.M. who would keep his electoral promises. He was honest, but it seemed to me quite improbable [that he would] given the wide gap between promises and the real situation”. More widely known is the incident of the first meeting - and the string of those that followed - of Dijsselbloem with feisty Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Since the very first session, Varoufakis made it clear that “They didn’t want to work together with the Troika. Terms like humiliation and dictating were used. I mentioned that the Troika worked under the political supervision of the Eurogroup - and that they [Greece] had to prepare and implement all agreements entered into” The rest of the Varoufakis positions were even more aggressive: slash the Greek debt by half debt, buy-back with the use of Eurobonds, recapitalisation of Greek bankers through ESM funds- even using the Target-22 profits for... social policy aims in Greece.
This, describes to Dijsselbloem the set-up of the clash in the crucial, initial part of the 2015 negotiations with Greece. Next week, we will give a taste of his chronicling the flirtation with Grexit - and the final defusing of the situation.