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With power and without… July 24, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A very very interesting point made in a recent edition of Prospect magazine. In an overview of two books on the EU and the Eurozone crisis – one being the now ubiquitous Adults in the Room by Varoufakis, Chris Bickerton notes:

Adults in the Room has a fly-on-the-wall quality that makes it a captivating read. Those who come out worst are Europe’s social democrats, the French and the Germans in particular. In one meeting, Sigmar Gabriel, the Vice-Chancellor of Germany and until recently the leader of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) tells Varoufakis about his recent yachting holiday in Greece. Gabriel had repeatedly offered to pay his mooring fees, only to be told that there was no rush and that he could pay “whatever he wanted,” a sign in his view of the excessive “informality” that characterises Greek economic life. Varoufakis generously folds Gabriel’s remark into a wider conversation about tax evasion, but the reader cannot help thinking that the German’s main interest in Greece is as a picturesque location for his sailing trips.
The hypocrisy of centre-left politicians, who express sympathy with Varoufakis in private but then toe the austerity line in public, is dispiriting. France’s former finance minister, Michel Sapin, is one more culprit. The behind-the-scenes camaraderie towards Varoufakis, in Sapin’s case, comes from his interest in the ancient coins of Aegina, a Greek island near Athens. This fascination with Greek history contrasts with his unforgiving public pronouncements on the fate of contemporary Greece.

What an absolute shower. And Bickerton argues that Eurogroup meetings are a bit like committees where the ‘real’ decisions are made elsewhere and before hand and that any genuine engagement at them is infrequent at best. But this, as he notes, is down to those who are participating at them. They have the authority and the capacity to challenge and overturn this. Yet they don’t.

Understood in this way, it is easy to see why Varoufakis became such a hate figure. His boss, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, was told that negotiations would only continue if there was a change in finance minister. Varoufakis certainly lectured his peers and berated them for believing in a Greek recovery that did not exist, even on paper. But his real sin is challenging the “apparent consensus,” and bringing into the Eurogroup a debate about the eurozone and its policies.
Why did the finance ministers of countries like Spain and Slovakia round on him? Not because they wanted Greece to suffer as they had. Their grudge was far more personal. By tearing up the consensus, Varoufakis exposed them as cowards. He revealed how little they had challenged Germany’s interpretation of the euro crisis. The more Varoufakis argued, the more they could see how low they had sunk. For that reason alone, he had to go.


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