Ode On A Grecian U-Turn



Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varouvakis.

Into the eyes, not around.

Varoufakis, who resigned a week ago, has been criticised for not signing an agreement sooner, but he said the deal that Greece was offered was not made in good faith – or even one that the Troika wanted completed. In an hour-long telephone interview with the New Statesman, he called the creditors’ proposals – those agreed to by the Athens government on Friday night, which now seem somehow generous – “absolutely impossible, totally non-viable and toxic …[they were] the kind of proposals you present to another side when you don’t want an agreement.”

there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply.”

There were people who were sympathetic at a personal level, behind closed doors, especially from the IMF.” He confirmed that he was referring to Christine Lagarde, the IMF director. “But then inside the Eurogroup [there were] a few kind words and that was it: back behind the parapet of the official version. … Very powerful figures look at you in the eye and say ‘You’re right in what you’re saying, but we’re going to crunch you anyway’.”

Varoufakis was reluctant to name individuals, but added that the governments that might have been expected to be the most sympathetic towards Greece were actually their “most energetic enemies”. He said that the “greatest nightmare” of those with large debts – the governments of countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland – “was our success”. “Were we to succeed in negotiating a better deal, that would obliterate them politically: they would have to answer to their own people why they didn’t negotiate like we were doing.”

Yanis Varoufakis full transcript: our battle to save Greece (Yanis Varoufakis, The New Statesman)

Thanks Nelly Bergman

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87 thoughts on “Ode On A Grecian U-Turn

  1. Paolo

    You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares.

    This is the guy who came to crunch talks with the excuse that he “sent the wrong letter” by accident. He has managed to cost his country billions by delaying the agreement for weeks/months. He thought he could call the bluff of the ECB and he failed miserably. Only it doesn’t matter to him because he is a millionaire.

    1. Sham Bob

      I can’t wait til this is over and we can get back to pretending the EU is a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world. I’d be happy if they forced us to chuck Noonan though.

      1. Paolo

        How many millions of people died in wars between current EU countries before the treaty of Rome and how many have died since?

        That is the only fact you need to understand.

        1. Medium Sized C

          There is so much to that point that is ignorant and stupid that it’s barely worth replying to.

  2. Dubloony

    Really have no time for this twit now.
    More concerned with being right than in trying to solve his country’s problems.
    He didn’t bother turning up to vote in his own parliament but has lots of time for interviews.

    Not saying that the EU negotiators were covered in glory over the weekend but he fails to see that all those other countries are owed money by Greece.

    1. manolo

      We are so better off with the Kenny guy who never does interviews or debates. Waste of time to communicate your views and explain what you are doing.
      Down with that communication thing.

  3. Vote Rep #1

    Is it not the case that the EU had no trust of the Greeks and presumed that what they were going to do was take the money and then immediately run. BS had a picture last week of all the countries who presumed they were going to exit the euro, and it was pretty much all of them. In fact, that is pretty much what he wanted to do

    “he was prepared to do three things: issue euro-denominated IOUs; apply a “haircut” to the bonds Greek issued to the ECB in 2012, reducing Greece’s debt; and seize control of the Bank of Greece from the ECB”

  4. Joe the Lion

    He’s a truly brilliant man and it’s not even remotely surprising to see self regarding racist winky heads in this forum rubbish his substantive point about Ireland

    1. Kieran NYC

      You usually troll better than that, Joe.

      I’ll let you off because it’s Monday.

      1. Odis

        You’re to kind Kieran. The only thing Joe’s good for is improving the nitrogen content of soil at some time in the future.

          1. Joe the Lion

            All I need is the air that I breathe Lush but Odis even robs us of that as well :)

    2. tony

      You’re like a student with a crush on teacher Joe. The dumb ones are always the greatest licks.

    3. Bobby

      Haha, pulling the race card in an economics discussion. Brilliant. A good troll is worth their weight in gold.

  5. Kieran NYC

    Yeah… I’d prefer if the Irish government didn’t take the country to the very brink of collapse for a worse deal than they started out with… Thanks.

    Having said that, I’m so angry with Germany. The Greeks might be out-of-their-depth, populist muppets, but the Germans were cold, calculated and cruel.

    1. manolo

      They finally found a way to get a soft annexation without any resistance. This could work nicely for Germany, all they have to do is ensure that only one country at the time has the balls to complain while they drawn. Our time will come.

      1. Twunt


        The Greeks were free to leave at any time, they chose not to.

        Telling your creditors to kcuf off, getting an mandate from the public to tell them to kcuf off, calling them terrorists, bringing up WWII, refusing to implement change, rolling back the already implemented changes and then going back with the begging bowl looking for more?

        The mind boggles.

        1. manolo

          I’ll address your point with a chart. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Q1zp7ahQxk8/VOIKws7Fv7I/AAAAAAAAXhc/xdC_X56LWL8/s1600/22.png

          Lets just hope the Irish loans are not ‘called in’, otherwise we might suffer the same humiliation that Greece is facing today – we are after all the most indebted country per capita in the world.

          “The Greeks were free to leave at any time, they chose not to” – their foreign debt today is 180% of GDP. If they drop the Euro it can easily go to 300% or 400%. Do you really think that was a choice?

          1. Twunt

            If you leave you default, you don’t leave and keep the debt, that is just dumb.

            They had options.

            It is somewhat unfortunate that nations get the governments they deserve. They Greek people choose Syriza, who then proceeded to burn all of their bridges.

            They had options, they choose Syriza, now they get what comes with those choices.

            A lesson to all the people that might vote SD or AAA.

          1. Twunt

            Because it does nothing to strengthen your position, in fact it does the opposite, in short it is a stupid thing to do.

    2. Nikkeboentje

      No sure why there’s a link to the private islands online website for the assets Greece will privatise. The vast majority of those islands are privately owned, the remainder are being advertised under false names and cowboy agents are trying to sell them.

  6. phil

    I agree with everything he said, especially the bit in bold, however….

    Has that not the political and economic reality for a long time , globally… It was kinda obvious the day the first bank had its losses socialised. Its not just a Greek coup , its the new norm.

    What I dont know yet is whether thats a bad or good thing, bad of course in the short term, but who knows …

    My price for this New World Order , is an end to corruption in all its forms.

  7. Ppads

    I suspect Kenny ‘n Co. will regret misrepresenting Irish mainstream opinion of the Greece crisis. Time will tell.

  8. Eliot Rosewater

    I must say, I’ve lost a lot of respect for them over the last week or so, but I guess what happened was a case of an attempted bluff gone horribly wrong, and a left wing party in a weird situation where it’s in a coalition whose only reason for existing is to resist austerity. That’ll be difficult to do when your partners and previous governments actively encouraged the tax dodging that was present in a small but significant percentage of the population.

    But what’s really important is that Germany won, their economy is secure, and their banks aren’t as exposed to bad debts anymore. Greece are beyond fu cked, and you know it’s bad when even the imf are telling you austerity isn’t the answer.

    For all his many, many faults, he’s right about the other fringe economies in the EU. Ireland ‘s day will come, soon, probably when our low tax breaks for foreign companies are dealt with (low tax breaks on foreign investment? Now why does that sound familiar) or when the U.S. Or China gets a cold.

    1. Joe the Lion


      But what else do you prescribe for us? We are a small open economy and can only fatten up so many cows and pigs. The thing is our educational system and financial systems are so sub par that we can only aspire to be Europe’s Puerto Rico, geopolitically we’re irrelevant.

      1. Lilly

        Our educational system isn’t sub- par. Take a look at the UK if you want to see sub-par state schools.

        1. Joe the Lion

          I beg to differ. We have very high rates of adult functional illiteracy and many people are unable to think strategically or solve engineering or logistical problems. You only have to look at things like the Port Tunnel overrun or the Corrib Gas/ Midlands wind farm/ pylons fiasco to see how poor our strategic management is. And if the last few days of evidence at the tribunal from our former Taoiseach didn’t drive this point home I don’t know what will

          1. Lilly

            You’re talking about flawed individuals rather than a flawed educational system. If ever there was a man educated beyond his intelligence, it is Cowen.

          2. Joe the Lion

            I don’t think so Lilly. The Port Tunnel, Eirgrid and Corrib gas projects are major pieces of infrastructure. The projects are presumably led by our most qualified engineers.
            While I won’t discount the possibility of political interference, that is hardly invaliding the central point of my thesis – we might have ‘an education’ or a ‘piece of paper’ but are not really that smart after all.

          3. classter

            Your populist, confident but essentially empty comments are a better example of how our education system (based around rote-learning) has some important flaws, Joe & Eliot.

            There are always debates/discussion/opposition to large-scale infrastructure projects in any democratic, western economy. This political inteference is not always ideal but is preferable to Chinese-style top-down planning. 50% of the costs of the Port Tunnel went to legal costs.

            We have actually been very good at delivering infrastructure, once the politicians were on board & the funding available. The Port Tunnel has been a massive success and over a longer period fairly cheap. Almost nobody has done anything of the scale of the NRA, to the standard of the NRA over the time period the NRA has.

            Corrib is a private sector project lead by a foreign company, not ‘our most qualified engineers’. If Shell had used a finer touch early on, they’d likely have had much less trouble. Unless your issue is that oil exploitation be allowed at all?

            I’m not even sure what your point is regarding the ‘Midlands wind farm/pylons fiasco’. That whole concept is in relatively early days and there are no simple answers there. The grid needs to be modernised anyway. It also needs to be extended and upgraded to deal with a future situation which likely will involve a greater number of distributed power sources. Putting all of it underground is not remotely affordable & would feed into much higher electricity costs which it is not clear the public nor industry is happy to pay. The Midlands wind famr idea was an excellent one, imo. An area of the country, with little tourism, little distinct beauty & no jobs. How is any of this proof of anything?

          4. Joe the Lion

            Not only is your pedantry distressing Classter your unfamiliarity with key concepts around effective environmental planning and project management apparently did not dissuade you from putting in your useless tuppence worth.

          5. classter

            I don’t suppose you care to elaborate what exactly was ‘pedantic’ about my post nor give any substantive examples of how my ‘unfamiliarity with key concepts around effective environmental planning and project management’ was exposed.

            I stand by my point. You personally, Joe, exemplify the weaknesses in the education system. It did the job once but we need more than learned-off buzzwords to take the next step up.

          6. Joe the Lion

            Thanks classter – I was hoping you would respond with the usual blathering partisan guff. I didn’t bother taking the time earlier, to refute, point-by-point, your knowledge-free blancmange as I fear it’s too late for you to benefit from my schooling.

            But, anyway (sigh) here’s some examples to fill your trollful bowl.

            “Corrib gas was originally promised for 2002 but, as a result of multiple mistakes by the energy giant developing the Corrib field, and by the regulatory authorities (with local protests contributing to the delay), the gas has still not flowed.

            Thus, for over a decade we have been at risk, albeit very small, of a catastrophic loss of gas supply.

            The failure to deliver the second North-South electricity interconnector poses another major danger to energy security on this island. This failure puts at risk the security of electricity supplies across all of Northern Ireland. The absence of the interconnector is also costing the people of Ireland tens of millions of euro every year.”

            You Classter are the living embodiment of the type of intellectually mindless thug our ‘better’ schools breed like alley cats. The type of fellow who knows how to argue and bluster to beat the band, but actually hasn’t the brains of a rocking horse.

          7. Joe the Lion

            @ classter

            Here’s another link for you to peruse little fellow


            Compare and contrast the approach to fostering social acceptance of large scale wind farms suggested by Wustenhagen et al with the approach taken in the Midlands recently –


            A Poster Who Can See Through Your Partisan Reactionary Guff

          8. classter

            Joe, getting angry & re-stating your point doesn’t make it any more correct.

            Your basic point (in as much as there was a coherent point) was that perceived ‘failures’ in a number of infrastructure projects were down to ‘strategic management’ by engineers and that this proved there was a problem with Ireland’s education system. You haven’t backed up any of these assertions – you haven’t shown that there were ‘failures’, nor that any problems were caused by a failure in ‘strategic management’ or that these failures were on the part of senior engineers. This was to back up your point that the Irish education system was extremely far below par (essentially the worst in the EU to judge by your Puerto Rico point).

            So far, you seem you have given up on the Port Tunnel (which was probably the best you had given that there were quantifiable cost overruns, even if initial underestimates by politicians is a necessary part of building public works worldwide – see Bent Flyvbjerg of Oxford Uni for research on this).

            The Corrib gas field is a private concern. Our energy security does not depend on Corrib & realistically, the vast majority of gas taken in from the field will be exported. The mistakes made there were largely by a foreign, private company & do not reflect at all (good or bad) on the Irish education system or engineering establishment.

            You have conflated several different issues on your windfarms / Midlands issue. Re the pylons (and large commercial windfarms in the midlands), there is a political battle to be had to balance financial cost, benefit, tourism impacts, energy security, access for maintenance, the rights of locals, etc. The North-South interconnector is a small part of this & in the medium term is a risk for NI only. Obviously, the Irish system would like to facilitate the energy security of the six counties, especially when there is money to be made doing so. The failure to do so to date (apocalyptic warnings aside) is at least equally down to problems on the UK side, impacts upon UK territory and thus surely reflects more badly on the UK educational system (by your logic) as it does on the Irish one.

            So I may well not have the brains of a rocking horse and may also be a ‘partisan’ ‘thug’ but you’re wrong & you don’t seem to be able to put together even the most threadbare of arguments to aid your case.

            And thank you for assuming I went to one of our ‘better schools’.

        1. Odis

          That’s interesting. Though I don’t think much will come of it, over and above a few individuals getting their pockets well lined.
          I view it as forward planning. Unfortunately, for the Conservatives, the North still has the vote.
          This is traditionally given to Labour. However, the probable case, is that Labour will vote in a leader, who will come across as a politically correct, social sciences lecturer. A turn off for many Northerners.
          Normally, the North can be ignored by the Conservatives, However they are under some pressure from UKIP in the South. If UKIP got its act together, it could threaten the Conservative and Labour vote in the North.
          I should imagine this possibility, which might seem small at the moment, must be what is stimulating the largesse of Georgie Osbourne.

  9. Nollaig

    Yanis, and the way the Greeks went about their negotiations, ref’ etc. gave me (and a lot more people I’d guess) a better insight into how the EU / EZ is run and it isn’t pretty. Whatever about the Greeks – the way the EU institutions work is also unsustainable in the long run. I’d like to see a few printing press for punts on the ready should we ever need it in a hurry. But wishful thinking that Noonan would dare unpset the bond market with that proposal!

    1. Twunt

      I would be more concerned about the tactics of a self professed game theory expert.

      Nations get the governments they deserve. Greece made its choices.

      1. DT

        Exactly. He seems genuinely surprised that governments in Irl, Portugal, etc. were a) against Greece getting a write-down on debt and b) pro austerity measures being adopted by Greece, despite the fact that if these governments were to agree to both of these they would be signing their own death warrant. Some game theorist.

        1. Joe the Lion

          Nonsense. He’s surprised that our countries elect cowardly leaders who negotiate like maiden aunts and behave like cowardly lickspittles against our own interest to save their own political hide

          1. Lilly

            Pfft Joe, NO ONE in my family has ever voted Fianna Fáil. We’ve made mistakes but never that one.

          2. Lilly

            Wrong again Joe, you’re on a roll today ;) Although I did give them a whirl last time… never again.

    2. Paolo

      Facepalm! The ECB is the ONLY friend Greece has. No other fool will loan them money. Greece has received hundreds of billions of Euro and done nothing with it. I really fail to see what you expect the EU to do. Play along with Syriza’s stupid little games?

      Syriza has royally screwed the Greek people by playing a very high stakes game of poker with no hand. They turned a budget surplus into deficit, they burned all of their allies, they posses off their creditors and they ignored their voters.

      They chose the absolute wrong time to play this game.

      1. Lilly

        And yet and yet they have the upper hand. The Germans are p*ssing themselves at the thought that the Greeks might leave them to it.

      2. Stephen

        Agreed Paolo

        In a few short months Syriza has managed to absolutely screw the whole country. They look like inexperienced jokers. The money was borrowed, and wasted – of course the creditors are going to play hardball to get it back

  10. Clampers Outside!

    The EU is a joke, nothing to do with people, and everything to do with corporations and banks. It’s broken Ted… and with TPP TTIP and TiSA coming, and that on top of the fact that *75% of MEP meetings are with lobbyists representing corporate interests we can all say goodbye to any real “democracy” as we go the route of corporate America, which hasn’t been a democracy since the end of WW2.

    * Someone posted a link to a story on that here on BS a week or so ago, can’t find it, if anyone knows where it is…

    1. Yorick

      +1 for EU being undemocratic.
      +1 for its impending worsening and Americanisation (TTIP, etc.)

      Here’s a link to George Monbiot in the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/02/transatlantic-free-trade-deal-regulation-by-lawyers-eu-us

      Some quotes from the piece for anyone who doesn’t have time to read it (it’s only the future of Europe after all… ahem): “Persistent digging by the Corporate Europe Observatory reveals that the commission has held eight meetings on the issue with civil society groups, and 119 with corporations and their lobbyists. Unlike the civil society meetings, these have taken place behind closed doors and have not been disclosed online.” and “As for the commission’s claim that the trade deal will produce growth and jobs, this is also likely to be false. Barack Obama promised that the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement would increase US exports by $10bn. They immediately fell by $3.5bn. The 70,000 jobs it would deliver? Er, 40,000 were lost.”

      and here’s a link to a Corporate European Observatory piece on corporate lobbyists at TTIP negotiations:

      1. classter

        I am opposed to TIPP but your Korea example proves little.

        It only came into force mid-2012. It needs to be evaluated over a much longer time period.

        1. Yorick

          Perhaps I was guilty of editorialising – it wasn’t intentional – but the link to the article is there. Agreed; evaluation over a greater time-period is important.

          However, these agreements, and concessions to corporations, are often sold to the electorate as being a boon for jobs, with no mention of negative short, medium, or long term consequences. NAFTA has been around longer, and as I understand it (caveat: not an economist), that hasn’t lived up to what was proposed either.

          It’s political dishonesty/lies by omission, and corporations essentially writing the rulebooks that is most worrying to me. As long as the buzzword of jobs is in the mix, other concerns like inequality, the quality of jobs, the environment, etc are ignored.

          1. classter

            It sounds like we agree, Yorick.

            I don’t fancy reducing our regulations to match those of the US and I don’t fancy furthering empowering secretive corporate courts.

    2. :-Joe


      The E.U. is financially corrupt and is not much more than a sister organisation to the IMF and WORLD BANK in many ways.

      The reason there has been very few wars involving Europe is not just because of the E.U it’s mostly because of a shift in the way war itself is planned and executed.

      The current empire of our time is a corporate economic empire and for the first time in history it was not initially started or built on military force and war although as we have seen many times, it uses the military complex to reinforce it’s plans where necessary.

      If the E.U was over tomorrow or if it never started in the first place we would still be in the same the place as far as war is concerned.

      The E.U in having a unified system of laws and regulations prevents corporations from attacking weaker economies with weak laws and slows the rate of exploitation.

      Forget the traditional war argument its the current, ongoing economic war you should be thinking about.


  11. :-Joe

    He speaks the truth for pro bono publico.

    Some people on this thread seem to be living in some fantasy version of reality where the IMF’s involvement is somehow just an everyday, normal and benign financial situation.

    The very fact that people aren’t screaming bloody murder in droves on this thread and everywhere else is deeply disturbing to me.

    Watch these documentaries :
    ” LIFE AND DEBT” about how the IMF have yet again destroyed the economy of another sovereign nation.

    “CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN” John Perkins details his involvement in being part of the system of bringing down governments, asset stripping and imposing debt slavery through the institutions like the IMF and WORLD BANK for the benefit of corporations. If you google this man you will get a lot of information about what is really going on behind the scenes.

    I can forgive people for ignorance but some people here are just plain stupid.

    Have a nice day.


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