The Corner

What’s Going on with Greece?

Away from ISIS and the disappearance and reappearance of Vladimir Putin, another drama, the negotiation over Greece’s refinancing, continues.

There was the immigration threat…

The Daily Express reported:

Cash-strapped Greece is currently facing pressure to get acceptance from eurozone bosses over its plans for the country’s financial reform. The rising tensions between Greece and the eurozone came as Panos Kammenos, the Greek defence minister, warned that Europe will be hit with migrants that could include “some jihadists of the Islamic State” if Greece is forced out of the euro.

He said: “If they deal a blow to Greece, then they should know the the migrants will get papers to go to Berlin.

“If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State too.”

His comments came shortly after Nikos Kotzias, the Greek foreign minister, warned that “there will be tens of millions of immigrants and thousands of jihadists” if bailout negotiations fail.

And World War Two Reparations were brought back into play…

The Guardian:

Greece’s strained relations with Germany took a turn for the worse on Wednesday when Athens’ leftist-led government raised the spectre of seizing German assets for war reparations that it claimed Berlin has stubbornly refused to honour.

In an address before the Greek parliament, Alexis Tspiras, the Greek prime minister, said Germany had “a moral obligation” to make amends for the atrocities wrought during three devastating years of Nazi occupation. Berlin, he said, had deliberately flouted its duty employing “legal tricks and delay”

The BBC:

Berlin paid 115m Deutschmarks to Athens in 1960 in compensation. It was a fraction of the Greek demand but was made with the agreement there would be no more claims. Greece says the 1960 deal did not cover key demands, including payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of a forced loan exacted from occupied Greece.

Germany insists the issue of compensation was settled in 1990 legally and politically before Germany reunified and has questioned why Greece did not negotiate when it entered the eurozone.

And then came the war of Varoufakis’s finger.

Reuters:

 Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tangled yet again with Berlin on Monday after German television aired a 2013 video purportedly showing him making a rude gesture toward Europe’s economic powerhouse. Varoufakis denied brandishing his middle finger – known in Germany as the “Stinkefinger” – during a lecture in Croatia where he said Greece should have defaulted in 2010 rather than accept a multi-billion euro bailout package.

“The video was faked, without doubt,” he told German news magazine Der Spiegel’s online version on Monday.

German public broadcaster ARD, which showed the video on Sunday, said it had seen “no sign of manipulation” but would have experts check it…

“My proposal was that Greece should simply announce that it is defaulting … and stick the finger to Germany and say ‘you can now solve this problem by yourself’,” Varoufakis says on the video, raising his middle finger.

Confronted with the video, Varoufakis told ARD: “I have never given the finger ever.”

Appearing on the same show, Bavaria’s state finance minister Markus Soeder said straight out that Varoufakis was lying.

But, if Germans want to dig into what Varoufakis has done or said in the past, they might want to note this from 2014 (he was writing, before he became finance minister) about Ukraine:

As for Germany, it has its own agenda which pulls its in two different directions at once: securing as much of the former Soviet Union as part of its neo-Lebensraum strategy of expanding its market/industrial space Eastwards; while, at the same time, preserving its privileged access to gas supplies from Gazprom.

Neo-Lebensraum?

Lebensraum was the Nazi idea that Germany had to push east to gain ‘living space’ (Lebensraum) for its people….

Varoufakis meanwhile has recently run into some bother over a distinctly glossy photo-spread in Paris Match.

The Guardian:

Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has said he regretted a celebrity shoot for the French news magazine Paris Match that has drawn widespread ridicule on social media.

“I wish that shoot had not taken place, I regret it,” he told Alpha TV, adding that he did “not agree with the aesthetic” of the pictures.

Varoufakis was pictured by Paris Match at a piano in his living room, and dining with his wife in style on the roof terrace of his “love nest at the foot of the Acropolis”, while telling the magazine how he abhorred the “star system”.

The reaction on social media was instant and heavily critical of the finance chief who serves Greece’s new leftwing Syriza government, which has described the country’s financial plight as a humanitarian crisis.

George Orwell  (Animal Farm):

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The Guardian:

The row [over reparations] is not likely to warm MPs in Merkel’s conservative ranks who are already wavering over extending Greece’s rescue programme and enraged at the prospect of having to fund a third bailout for the crisis-stricken nation later this year.

Anti-Greek sentiment is said to be growing by the day among German lawmakers. But anti-German feeling in Greece also appeared to have climbed as senior members of the Tsipras government railed against Berlin’s hegemony of Europe.

“Germany’s Europe has finished, [the Europe] where Germany forbids and all the other countries execute orders is over,” fumed Dimitris Stratoulis, the minister in charge of social security. “In November, when [Spain’s anti-austerity party] Podemos is elected things will be even worse for them,” he said.

Readers with long memories may remember that the single currency was going to bring Europeans together.

Quite rightly, many Germans have had enough of bailing out a country they no longer like in the interests of a currency they never wanted:

Bloomberg:

A poll published March 13 by public broadcaster ZDF found 52 percent of his countrymen no longer want Greece to remain in Europe’s common currency, up from 41 percent last month. The shift is due to a view held by 80 percent of Germans that Greece’s government “isn’t behaving seriously toward its European partners.”

I continue to think that a Greek departure from the euro zone remains unlikely for now, but it’s a lot less unlikely than it was…..

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