As Prime Minister Antonis Samaras hits the hustings to beg for a little mercy, he’s finally acknowledged that he is, in fact, going to make a play for time — but it’s only a token gesture.
We’ve got the latest German circumlocutions, hinting at meager mercy, a harsher take from a Greek Reporter, a europol’s refusal to meet with the leader of the number two party in the Greek parliament, rumblings from an Orthodox cleric, higher unemployment numbers, the latest economic numbers, and some kindly words from an Italian.
Samaras finally makes his play for time
While it’s no secret that’s what he wants to keep his coalition alive, he finally made the pitch public in an interview with a German newspaper.
From the BBC:
Greece’s Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, has called for more time to implement tough spending cuts and reforms, ahead of crucial talks on its EU/IMF bailout.
Mr Samaras told German daily Bild that Greece needed “breathing space”.
He will meet eurozone head Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, and French and German counterparts later this week.
“Let me be very explicit: we demand no additional money. We stand by our commitments,” Mr Samaras told German tabloid Bild in an interview published on Wednesday.
“But we have to kick-start growth in order to cut our deficit. All that we want is a little ‘breathing space’ to revive the economy quickly and raise state income.”
However, a government source told our correspondent that Mr Samaras will not press the issue too hard, fearing it might cause bad blood with the group of lenders that monitors Greece’s bailout.
And there it is: Along with the pitch, the official leak rendering it moot.
We suspect there’ll be an ensuing firestorm of criticism at what amounts to a toothless for-domestic-consumption gesture.
Meanwhile, back in Athens, a gentle hand
Call it austerius interruptus, the plan announced by Greece Tuesday to spread out the plan by gradually introducing all those cuts rather than all at once.
From Furio Morroni of ANSAMed:
Greece’s 13.5 billion euro cuts in public spending will be applied gradually to soften the blow, Finance Ministry sources said on Tuesday.
The government is putting the finishing touches on its new austerity plan ahead of the arrival of Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker in the Greek capital on Wednesday. He is due to meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras amid reports that Athens will seek a two-year extension to its 3% of GDP deficit-reduction deadline. Samaras will try to repeat the trick in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Berlin, where some MPs have said ”adjustments” might be made to the tough requirements on Athens.
The new austerity plan is harsher than the 11.5 billion euro cuts originally required by the EU-ECB-IMF troika in exchange for a huge European bailout, because the proposed wage and pension cuts will leave a 2-billion-euro hole in the Treasury.
The new measure is to be announced officially by the end of the month. ”It will be different from the one implemented in the past,” is all Stournaras would say, in reference to the previous administration’s unsuccessful attempts to curb public employee spending.
Not that the Germans are, in Dybya’s memorable phrase, “the deciders.”
More from Ekathemerini:
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras presented Prime Minister Antonis Samaras with the savings during a meeting on Monday. The government is poised to exceed the 11.5 billion euros of cuts demanded by the troika.
It has planned for 13.5 billion euros of measures over the next two years as the Finance Ministry has estimated that the 11.5 billion euros in cuts would lead to a shortfall of 2 billion euros in tax revenues and social security contributions.
“It is clear that we will keep our commitments,” said Stournaras after the meeting.
He refused to be drawn on the issue of the labor reserve for civil servants, with reports suggesting that 30,000 to 40,000 public sector employees would be removed from their jobs and would receive some 70 percent of their salaries for one to three years.
Another mollification from Germany
In the ongoing good cop/bad cop game being played out Germany in its dealings with the Greeks, the latest good cop [sort of] is Merkel’s party’s money man in the Bundestag.
CDU budget spokesman in parliament Norbert Barthle said, “Small concessions are feasible provided they are strictly made within the framework of the second aid program.”
Barthle’s comments add to signs of an easing in Germany’s resistance to granting Greece more room as it struggles to meet the terms laid down by its international creditors in a fifth year of recession.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose ruling coalition favors an extension of its fiscal adjustment program by two years, is due to meet with Merkel in Berlin on Aug. 24, and will travel to Paris the next day for talks with President Francois Hollande.
A precedent for program adjustments was made with the first Greek bailout, when the country secured lower interest rates and longer maturities on bilateral loans than those originally set, Norbert Barthle, the Christian Democratic Union’s budget spokesman in parliament, said today in a telephone interview.
“Small concessions are feasible provided they are strictly made within the framework of the second aid program,” Barthle said. “For instance, the interest and maturity on loans could be adjusted, as in the case of the first aid package for Greece.”
More from Ekathemerini:
A precedent for program adjustments was made with the first Greek bailout, when Greece secured lower interest rates and longer maturities on bilateral loans than those originally set, Norbert Barthle, the CDU budget spokesman in parliament, said today in a telephone interview.
The German Parliament’s Budget Committee would be called upon to approve such adjustments rather than a vote going to the full plenary session, he said. That would probably make the concessions easier it to pass.
“Small concessions are feasible provided they are strictly made within the framework of the second aid program,” Barthle said. “For instance, the interest and maturity on loans could be adjusted, as in the case of the first aid package” for Greece.
More mollifying words from another German
This time, from a junior partner in the Merkel coalition.
From Uta Winkhaus and Jean-Baptiste Piggin of Deutsche Presse Agentur:
A German legislator with close links to the foreign minister has suggested Greece could be allowed slightly later deadlines to implement reforms and austerity measure demanded by international creditors.
Christian Lindner, who heads the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the state of North Rhine Westphalia and is thought to have the ear of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, told dpa that Greece‘s bailout programme “shouldn‘t collapse because of just a few days difference.”
“There is too much at stake for that,” said Linder.
Lindner said Greece should be assessed according to the reform objectives it had met.
“We have a major interest in preserving the monetary union, with Greece included,” he said.
Note the feebleness of the statement, and that phrase “just a few days difference.”
Hardly the words to stir a Greek heart, eh?
A harsher take from a Greek reporter
Andy Dabilis of Greek Reporter has been doing an excellent job of following the twists and turns of bailout politics.
Here’s his take on the latest developments, which opens with the declaration that “Samaras has reneged on pledges to try to renegotiate the onerous terms of a second bailout.”:
Samaras, aware of the political consequences of going after the most vulnerable sectors of Greek society again, is expected to raise the question of a two-year delay in reaching the fiscal targets set by the Troika when he meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Aug. 24, and French President Francois Hollande in Paris the next day. Hollande was elected on an anti-austerity platform but says Greece has to follow the Troika’s orders.
SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis said that Samaras is going to the meetings “as a suppliant and not as the representative of the interests of the Greek society.” Germany is the biggest contributor to the Greek bailouts, including a first series of $152 billion in loans and Merkel has been unflagging in demanding more austerity measures on Greeks.
Earlier, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met his Greek counterpart, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and said that his country would not soften its hard line and that it’s up to the Greeks to make the reforms or risk losing the aid. Skourletis said that the foreign ministers’ meeting was a “communication fiasco,” and that Westerwelle had lectured Avramopoulos and Greece was blindly following the orders of the memorandum it had signed in return for the money.
“It is absolutely certain that Mr. Samaras has no plan different from that of creditors against the crisis. Walking speed to obtain the title of Prime Minister of the bankruptcy and the drachma,” he said. Tsipras has remained mostly quiet so far although social unrest is expected to resume next month when Greeks return from long vacations and face more unpopular austerity measures.
Eurogroup head refuses meet with Syriza
Alexis Tsipras, head of the number two party in the Greek parliament, had requested a meeting with the Luxembourg prime minister who serves as head of the eurozone’s money ministers.
But the Syriza head is notably off his list of appointments.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Head of Eurogroup Jean Claude Juncker is already packing his luggage. He is due to arrive in Athens at 2:30 p.m., tomorrow Wednesday, August 22nd 2012. Three hours later, at 5:30 Juncker will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. After the meeting they will make statements to the media [and the Greeks, I suppose]. Then Juncker will visit the Acropolis Museum and will attend a dinner organized by Samaras to his honour.
Juncker is scheduled to leave Athens at 1:30 pm on the following day.
However and odd enough, there is no meeting planned in Juncker’s official program with the leader of the main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras (SYRIZA). Even though there was a request for a meeting with the eurogroup chief from the side of SYRIZA, as Greek media reported.
Guess that’s a clear signal if there ever was one.
Greek Orthodox cleric says ‘Don’t watch Turkish TV’
The chief cleric of Greece’s second city is preaching the same message Greeks have already been hearing from the neo-Nazi Golden Daqwn.
From Areti Kotseli of Greek Reporter:
The Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Anthimos has criticized Turkish TV series he said have “invaded” Greek lives and said the owners of Greek stations should not show them. During the Sunday church service, he advised against watching them, even though they are cheaper than producing original series in Greece.
“They (the series) insult and challenge our national consciousness … turn off your TVs. I, myself, turn off the TV every time I stumble upon such series,” Anthimos told the churchgoers. Giving a speech on forgiveness, the Metropolitan wondered if TV directors could ever be forgiven for broadcasting Turkish series.
“We are not against art. If our neighbors change their stance and stop what they’ve been doing with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we will redefine our stance,” Anthimos explained. Nikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of the far-right Golden Dawn party had also advised his voters to abstain from Turkish TV series as a sign of national pride.
We hereby nominate him for honorary membershipp in the Tea Party.
Greek unemployment numbers rise again
Hardest hit of the young and women.
The number of people in Greece registered as unemployed rose by 1.59% between June and July, according to the latest statistics from the Manpower Organization (OAED). A total of 794,924 people were registered as jobless in July. The majority, 58.5%, are women. The highest rate of unemployment is in the 30-54 age group, which accounts for 63.4% of the total jobless. Just over 18% of those without jobs have university degrees as reported by Kathimerini.
Greek trade balance narrows
The biggest negative is the cost of oil imports, which soared an astounding 40 percent.
And no doubt lower purchases by increasingly afflicted Greek consumers played a major role in the lower import totals.
The Bank of Greece (BoG) announced that the current account balance showed a deficit of 274 million euros, down by 1.3 billion euros or 82.8% year-on-year, as daily Athens news reports. The trade deficit narrowed by 356 million euros, as a result of a 375 million euros decrease in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships, as well as a 200 million euros decline in the net import bill for ships.
By contrast, the net oil import bill increased by 219 million euros or 40.7%, partly offsetting this improvement. The trade deficit excluding oil and ships shrank due to the considerable reduction of the import bill by 368 million euros or 16.2%, whereas export receipts rose by a mere 0.7%. In the January-June period, tourism receipts totaled 2.7 billion euros, compared to 3 billion in the same period last year. At the same time, Greeks were traveling abroad less, spending 889 million euros (16.4% less) in the first half.
An Italian friend of Greece and an artichoke
Twice prime minister of Italy and a one-time contender to serve as head of the International Monetary Fund, Giuliano Amato used a colorful and very apt metaphor in his concise argument for a little Greek mercy from europols.
From Keep Talking Greece:
This statement was made by the former Prime Minister of Italy Giuliano Amato. “If Greece exits the euro, the next could be us. Because the Eurozone is like an artichoke. Sooner or later the leaves may be cut off, “Amato told Italian daily ”Il Messaggero”.
With regard to Greece, Giuliano Amato said: “On the technical level, the single currency could survive if Greece was to exit the euro. I do not know, if Greece could survive, but, apparently, this issue is of interest only for the Greeks. I was always utterly opposed to the idea favoring that the weaker should be removed and then put back the issues on the table. This route turns Eurozone to classic artichoke.”
Guiliano Amato is a friend of Greece.
It’s really the perfect metaphor, with the outer leaves of Greece, Spain, Italy ready to be stripped off, the sweet flesh nibbled off by the investing class, and the empty fibrous husks discarded.