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A telling thought on Greece. February 12, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, The Left.

Writing about Greece Shona Murray has a revealing quote in the SBP at the weekend:

In Germany, chancellor Merkel and Schдuble have not been drawn publicly on the political implications of the Syriza victory, but sources in the Merkel administration say they “find disturbing” the cooperation between far-left Syriza and its right-wing, populist coalition partner, the Independent Greeks.
“This is hampering democracy,” one source said. “The middle of society is being left out of decisions being made by the very right and very left.”

Whatever else it is simply untenable to suggest that Syriza is the very left, in the sense that it now commands a sizeable chunk of the Greek electorates support. But doesn’t that say a considerable amount about the view of democracy? Somehow it was entirely acceptable when New Democracy in Greece government in tandem with the rump PASOK and the even more rump Dimar? One doubts that Merkel et al characterised that as the very right with the somewhat left and fretted about the ‘middle of society’.

Nor, did we hear any criticisms of the seat boost mechanism that delivered ND and now Syriza to power. Strange that.

Greece and a Grexit… February 12, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

Pat Leahy has a good overview of the Greece situation in the SBP this weekend and outlines it as follows:

The Samson Strategy is not something that is only occurring to the Greeks now.
According to Channel 4 reporter Paul Mason, who has reported extensively from Greece and interviewed leading Syriza figures, the new government will not flinch from exiting the euro if it cannot secure a deal they believe ends austerity inside it. Syriza calls it the “Samson Strategy” and it is prepared to push down the pillars of the palace to end their own “slavery”.


On the German side, along the axis that links the chancellor’s office in Berlin to ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, the line is firm and, as yet, unyielding.
Greece must keep its word. Countries must abide by the rules to which they have agreed. Solidarity has already been shown. To give in to Greek demands would be to encourage the extremes everywhere.
Backing up this hardline is a belief that a Greek exit from the eurozone is something that could be contained. The real losers would be the Greeks, they think.
The level of sympathy for the Greeks in Germany is minimal. Why must Germany always pay?

What’s fascinating is that there’s no admission that the structures of the eurozone were so poorly put together that there was no real oversight of individual member states and how they were doing. In other words Greek governments – with the help of pliable private sector international companies were able to cook the books largely untrammelled by any external considerations. And it gets worse. The adherence to a very specific ideological approach – low regulation, low income taxation, etc, and a belief in this as the only way to economic growth, also blinded the analysis from outside. We see a very similar dynamic in relation to this state during the 2000s where in the face of growing evidence that the economy was heading into significant trouble there was if anything a greater acclaim for the Celtic Tiger and its supposedly inevitable triumph.

And bundling all that together is a sense that Germany remains wedded – despite the strengthening consensus to the contrary – to a very specific right wing economic approach to be applied, come what may, to Greece and elsewhere in the eurozone.

That this has already unravelled conceptually, given that alternative views have achieved the status of a trope at this point, and politically given the arrival of Syriza, there’s a certain degree of wishful thinking on the part of Berlin (and others).

So perhaps Germany, and others, have to pay, because the vehicle they constructed was not fit for purpose from the off.

And the political push back, first in Greece, soon perhaps in Spain, and elsewhere, is of no small consequence, as Leahy notes. Which raises a significant question. As he puts it, was there another way?

As can be seen from the Taoiseach’s and the Irish government’s increasingly hardline pronouncements on the matter, the European stand-off is a matter of huge contemporary political importance here.
Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is eyeballing the president of the ECB over support for the Greek banks in the way that Brian Lenihan and then Michael Noonan both did over the planned burning of the infamous bondholders.
Both men, believing they had no other choice, blinked first, accepting huge costs for the Irish taxpayer.

And Leahy asks, what if they were wrong, and continues:

Bluntly, if Syriza gets its way, it destroys much of the government’s economic narrative. And without that narrative, there is no route to re-election for Enda Kenny and his increasingly nervous coalition.
The Irish response to the ECB’s ultimatums was cautious and risk-averse. But Varoufakis’s hand is different. He and Tsipras have a hint of desperation about them which makes them unpredictable and, to the Germans, dangerous.

He also asks:
The only possible compromise now is a debt extension, rather than a writedown – a long way from what Germany deems

acceptable and a very long way from what Syriza promised Greek voters.
And even if such a deal were available, above the concerns of other eurozone governments, it’s not clear Syriza could or would sell it at home.

I’m beginning to wonder if a Greek exit is the only path forward. Syriza is caught in a bind itself, but it’s a bind that allows it room for movement, whereas for Europe there’s much less room given the rhetorical and actual adherence to the orthodoxy.

And the very desperation of Greece’s plight paradoxically strengthens their hand. A banking collapse in Athens, caused by the withdrawal of European support, would certainly crash the Greek economy. But for many Greeks, it has already crashed. They have nothing left to lose. They elected Syriza on precisely that logic.
Greeks say they want to stay in Europe, the polls say. But the election results say they want a different euro, and a different EU. That may not, however, be on offer.

And if they do exit the euro that in and of itself will have enormous repercussions, well beyond the actual economic weight and importance of Greece within the eurozone.

A political endorsement… February 11, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

From the IT this evening…

The rise of Sinn Féin in opinion polls in Ireland and a similar surge of support for Podemos in Spain is “the best help” that can be given to the newly-elected Syriza government in Greece, a leading member of Syriza [Stathis Kouvelakis] said tonight.

And, from Senator David Cullinane:

“We have to be prepared to want to go into government, to lead an anti-austerity government in the south. There are people on the left who won’t be part of that, but we are certainly organising,” he told the meeting.

From Archon… thoughts on the potential sale of Aer Lingus February 11, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
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Many thanks to the person who forwarded a photocopy of a piece Archon of the Southern Star newspaper.


Deal? No deal, according to Dublin! February 11, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.

Yesterday we had Simon Coveney recognising that if a deal is done with Greece that implies that it should encompass Ireland in some shape or form.


On the eve of key meetings in Brussels, Mr Noonan complained of rampant tax evasion in Greece and said it was a fallacy to blame its creditors for its plight.“I don’t think the diplomatic démarche by the Greek government was very successful,” he said.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney did not reflect Dublin’s position when saying Ireland would seek similar measures to any Greek concessions, he said. “The Government hasn’t made a decision to that effect.”

But most pertinently:

Echoing other ministers, Mr Noonan said Ireland would not support a debt write-down for Greece.

Except… except, what of the actual economics of the situation?

Still, the French banker advising Athens said a €100 billion write-down was needed for an “acceptable” debt level. “An effort is absolutely necessary,” said Matthieu Pigasse of Lazard.

So what would Noonan accept? Well entertainingly despite being able to dismiss the Greek efforts so far?

Mr Noonan told the Oireachtas finance committee that he was well-disposed to help but stressed that many difficulties remain. Saying he did not know what Greece was seeking,

And this… this…

Mr Noonan also complained that Mr Varourfakis and prime minister Alexis Tsipras had been inconsistent.

Greece is different to Ireland… part II February 10, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.

And on foot of the earlier posts, Last Post in the SBP has an entertaining run down of those who told us last week Ireland is not Greece. I guess at that point they hadn’t got the memo that some sort of deal was likely, however watery. And therefore the Dáil was gifted some atrocious stuff. Most egregious quote?

Kildare TD Anthony Lawlor elaborated. “They live in cloud-cuckoo-land in which nobody pays for anything and the European Union and Irish taxpayers will pay for everything.” (This is Greece, by the way.)

Still, I guess as the enormity of the idea that, yes, Greece might get something and just where that would leave the Irish government hit home everything changed. No doubt this week we’ll be treated to the opposite message in the chamber!

Last Post takes a look at the following:

Labour TD Eamon Moloney used the debate to muse on language.
“I do not like using the word ‘austerity’,” he averred. “It is a very bourgeois word. When I was growing up we just used the word ‘hardship’. The people in most working class estates do not use the word ‘austerity’,” he explained.
“I am aware it is cool for the career socialists to speak about austerity but it is an awful word. ‘Hardship’ is much better, and people like Dickens used it. I do not know how the word ‘austerity’ crept in but it did not come from the labour movement.”

I don’t know if he’s right. I think most people now wherever do know and use ‘austerity’ and it’s hard to understand why ‘hardship’ would be an improvement – not least given the role of his party in this government in imposing austerity. As to this stuff about not coming from the ‘labour movement’, this sort of reaching for some spurious authenticity seems ever more rhetorical when set against the actual impacts of the crisis and – yes – austerity.

All that said, it’s Eamonn, two ’n’s and Maloney, ‘a’, not ‘o’. It’s the small things.

Greece is different to Ireland… February 10, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

Actually, on foot of Simon Coveney’s comments about how any deal on Greece should be applied to the RoI, interesting editorial on Greece in the SBP this weekend which under the heading ‘What is the point of destroying Greece’ makes some pertinent points:

The Syriza administration, with its youthful, charismatic leaders and unorthodox bluntness, has made clear that it will end the long winter of austerity endured by Greeks over the past six years – one way or the other. Reports from Athens stress how the new government has brought hope to the country.
But Greece needs more than hope. Above all, it needs two things. It needs help with its huge debts, and it needs to continue and intensify efforts to reform its own economy and society.


…if Greece is to be extended debt relief, in whatever form it arrives, it will be all of Europe, not just Germany, that extends a helping hand. Merkel may be Europe’s most powerful leader, its paymaster and Germany its economic powerhouse. But she is not chancellor of Europe.


The Irish government’s position has gone in the space of two weeks from being broadly supportive of a general conference on European debt to apparent outright opposition to any write-off0. for Greece. Last week, Enda Kenny was lecturing the new government in Athens about the need to stick to the commitments made by its predecessors.
That was, of course, the approach taken by Kenny when he assumed office. It is not one for which there is much support in Greece, however. It was precisely to repudiate these commitments that Tsipras and his party were elected.


What would be the point of insisting on further austerity in Greece? The country is broke, its society fracturing. A neo-Nazi party came third in the recent elections.
European countries should extend further assistance to Greece on the strict condition that the structural reforms necessary to rebuild the country’s economy…
What is the alternative? Ejection from the eurozone? Forcing the country into default? Syriza has promised reform. Tsipras should be given a chance to make good on his promises.

Very good, SBP. Very good (though it does take a lash at the ‘preposterously protected Greek public and semi-public sector). Now, what about this Republic?

Bank admits to ‘tax dodge’…but it’s ‘changed’. February 9, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.

From RTÉ this morning.

British bank HSBC has admitted failings by its Swiss subsidiary that helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of euro of assets.

Details from HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland show bankers advised clients on how to keep money hidden from national authorities. It also offered deals to help tax dodgers to stay ahead of the law. The bank says it has now changed.

…well I never.

Just to note, there’s a more local aspect to this.

350 people associated with Ireland held accounts with HSBC in Geneva worth a total of €3.1bn. 20 Irish account holders have since made settlements with the revenue commissioners.

A deeply confused voice of the orthodoxy February 8, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

Check this out:

Back in 2010 Ireland and Greece were both on the verge of financial meltdown and were only saved from ruin by the intervention of the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
The Irish response to the EU-IMF bailout was to stick by the terms of the deal and implement the reforms contained in the troika programme. The Greeks responded with violent street protests, political turmoil and foot-dragging on many of the agreed reforms.

Stephen Collins, for it is he, is apparently blissfully unaware that the Greeks too did attempt to impose the ‘deal’, actually multiple deals, with no less than seven ‘austerity packages and reforms’, albeit many of those are extensions and expansions on previous ones due to the continually worsening economic situation. And the ‘violent street protests’ were in essence a marginal phenomenon. If anything the problem is ever increasing austerity leading to ever increasing economic problems with further servings of austerity to address the economic problems leading to…

What does he think is leading Syriza emissaries to traipse around Europe seeking some amelioration of austerity?

And what of the economic consensus developing that tends to the view that the imposition of austerity on Greece has been wildly counterproductive and that as a minimum it has to be eased. That it is – unsustainable! But not a term in Collins analysis of the problem.

But hey, why engage with those inconvenient truths when making a political point about the essential correctness of this government in this state?

Meanwhile it is, as Fintan O’Toole noted during the week, all but incomprehensible as to why some, including Collins in the following seek to marginalise calls for an international debt conference:

There was an instructive Dáil debate during the week on a motion from the technical group calling for an international debt conference to deal with the problems of Greece.
In response, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan calmly and methodically set out the facts of the recovery, pointing out for a start that Ireland’s net debt had been cut to 90 per cent as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) and is moving quickly towards the EU average.

Really? It makes no sense to Collins that the government might attempt to ameliorate the debt burden in any way it could?

And why not? Well in part because apparently it’s all our fault…

He also addressed one of the central misconceptions in political debate which is that Ireland’s debt is largely due to the bank bailout. That is simply not the case. The bulk of the country’s debt is due to the gap between Government spending and the revenue raised from tax.

Except he appears obvious to the fact that the weight of the bank bailout – and let’s not forget the nature of that exercise in terms of socialising private debt – made what was a sustainable situation unsustainable. Indeed he goes so far as to argue that we haven’t actually experienced ‘austerity’. Yep, really…

What was widely described as EU-imposed austerity was actually the means to avoid austerity.

What possible response is there to that?

SYRIZA in Dublin this weekend February 5, 2015

Posted by doctorfive in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.


Greek Solidarity Committee hosting Syriza activists in bid to raise awareness of Syriza debt proposals

Ireland’s newly formed Greek Solidarity Committee will be hosting Syriza MEP Kostas Chrysogonos and economist Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos, a member of SYRIZA debt policy committee and advisor to Finance Ministry, this coming weekend (Saturday 7 February and Sunday 8 February).

The group will also include three Syriza activists.


The centrepiece of their trip will be a solidarity rally in the Sean O’Casey Community Centre in East Wall on Saturday 7 February at 4 pm.  The rally will be chaired by Mandate General Secretary and Greek Solidarity Committee member John Douglas, and addressed by Syriza activists.


Syriza activists will also attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Communities Against Water Charges in North Dublin on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, at the invitation of the five unions affiliated to Right2Water,  Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos will brief an invited audience on Syriza’s proposals for a resolution of the Greek and European debt crisis.

This weekend’s planned events come as solidarity campaigns around Europe organise events to express solidarity with the Greek people and their newly-elected Syriza-led Government, and to underline demands for a socially equitable and economically efficient resolution of the debt crisis.

In a statement, the Greek Solidarity Committee said today:

“We are delighted that, at a time of such momentous change in Greece, Syriza representatives have agreed to take time out of their crowded schedules to visit Ireland.  Both Ireland and Greece have been exposed to unsustainable levels of debt coupled with a relentless austerity programme which has plunged both countries into social and economic misery.

“Austerity is a political choice made by Governments.  The Syriza victory reminds us that Government, and therefore political choices can change.  In demonstrating solidarity with the people of Greece this weekend, we will also be emphasising the need for a resolution of the debt crisis”.

The following Syriza members will be visiting Ireland:

Dr. Kostas Chrysogonos MEP

Professor of Constitutional Law at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, elected to the European Parliament representing SYRIZA in 2014, currently Vice-President of the Committee on Development.

Dr Dimitros Sotiropoulos

Lecturer in economics at Kingston University in London, member of SYRIZA debt policy committee and advisor to Finance Ministry.

Konstantina Tzouvala

PhD candidate and part-​time staff at Durham University Law School, social justice activist and member of SYRIZA UK.

Marina Zepatou

Journalist with youth publication {Young}ist, party activist in Athens and committee member of SYRIZA Youth.

Maria Karagianni

PhD candidate in urban planning at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, member of SOSte to Nero struggle against water privatisation in Thessaloniki, SYRIZA activist.


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