Sunday, April 19, 2015

Greek negotiations continue, and continue ...

The Huffington Post English front webpage of 04/19/2015 carried this page, intentionally or not presenting my favorite finance minister, Greece's Yanis Varoufakis as the image for this headline:


I'm sure it looks that way to Angela Merkel!

It's a challenge to sort reasonable reports from rumors, trial balloons and propaganda posturing over Greece right now. The stakes are very high in the euro crisis and lots of people want to spin things their way. Factor in the various credit-default swaps and other forms of financial gambling that are surely in play, and you've got reputations, power and big bucks on the line. So it's no surprise that there is a lot of frivolous stuff flying around.

Varoufakis did meet with President Obama this past week during a visit to Washington. Obama, Greek finance chief share 'brief interaction' in Washington AFP/Yahoo! News 04/17/2015:

... a senior administration official said Friday the two had an informal interaction Thursday in Washington at a commemoration ceremony for Greece's 19th-century independence struggle.

"The president and Finance Minister Varoufakis did have a brief interaction along the rope line on the margins of yesterday's Greek Independence Day reception at the White House," the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Varoufakis is in Washington for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring meetings this week, where he is expected to hold talks on Greece's bailout deal.

Greece wants the last tranche of its bailout funding worth $7.8 billion (7.2 billion euros) to keep afloat and repay its debts to the IMF and European Central Bank, but has balked at tough reform conditions demanded by its creditors.
Why the "senior administration official" needed anonymity to pass this along is anybody's guess. The anonymity business for this kind of thing long since got completely silly.

Mehreen Khan reports on the meeting, also based on anonymous sources, Yanis Varoufakis urges Obama to squeeze Europe over debt stalemate Daily Telegraph 04/17/2015

The European press is full of speculation, reflecting real worries as well as sloppy journalism and lack of understanding of the euro crisis. Will Greece team up with Russia? Will they connive with China?

Nothing propagandistic about Spiegel International illustrating this story with a photo of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras smiling with Vladimir Putin!

From this 04/10/25015 story

There may actually be a pipeline deal between Greece and Russia. Maybe. (Giorgos Christides, Griechenlands Milliardendeal: Letzte Hoffnung Moskau Spiegel Online 19.04.2015)

To hear the neoliberal, Herbert Hooover/Heinrich Brüning/Angela Merkel austerity view on the Greek negotiations, check out this Bloomberg Businessweek video, which I didn't find a way to embed here, Is Greece Getting Closer to a Deal With Creditors? 04/17/2015. As Nikos Chrysoloras of Bloomberg News presents it there, the barrier to progress is that Greece's government wants to protect its people's pension system, they don't have enough labor flexibility, code for the complaint workers get paid too much and they have legal protections and unions.

Horror of horrors, he even says that Tispras' government reinstated compulsory collective bargaining! Lawdy, Miss Mellie, bring me the smelling salts, ah thank ah'm gone faint daid away!

Most of Chrysoloras' commentary could have been lifted straight from a press release of the German Finance Ministry. But near the end, he mentions the general assumption that there will eventually be a settlement. July-August still looks like the drop-dead date on that. And since Greece is far closer to having nothing more to lose than Germany is, I think Greece is going to continue insisting on their "red lines" in the negotiations.