The truth about Riga

It was the 24th of April. The Eurogroup meeting taking place that day in Latvia was of great importance to Greece. It was the last Eurogroup meeting prior to the deadline (30th April) that we had collectively decided upon (back in the 20th February Eurogroup meeting) for an agreement on the set of reforms that Greece would implement so as to unlock, in a timely fashion, the deadlock with our creditors.

During that Eurogroup meeting, which ended in disagreement, the media began to report ‘leaks’ from the room presenting to the world a preposterously false view of what was being said within. Respected journalists and venerable news media reported lies and innuendos concerning both what my colleagues allegedly said to me and also my alleged responses and my presentation of the Greek position.

The days and weeks that followed were dominated by these false stories which almost everyone (despite my steady, low-key, denials) assumed to be accurate reports. The public, under that wall of disinformation, became convinced that, during the 24th April Riga Eurogroup meeting, my fellow ministers called me insulting names (“time waster”, “gambler”, “amateur” etc. were some of the reported insults), that I lost my temper, and that, as a result, my Prime Minister later “sidelined” me from the negotiations. (It was even reported that I would not be attending the following Eurogroup meeting, or that I would be ‘supervised’ by some other ministerial colleague.)

Of course none of the above was even remotely true.

  • My fellow ministers never, ever addressed me in anything other than collegial, polite, respectful terms.
  • I did not lose my temper during that meeting, or at any other point.
  • I continue to negotiate with my fellow ministers of finance, leading the Greek side at the Eurogroup.

Then came a New York Times Magazine story which raised the possibility of a recording of that Eurogroup meeting. All of a sudden, the journalists and news media that propagated the lies and the innuendos about the 24th April Eurogroup meeting changed tack. Without a whiff of an apology for the torrent of untruths they had peddled against me for weeks, they now began to depict me as a ‘spoof’ who had “betrayed” the confidentiality of the Eurogroup.

This morning I went on the record on the Andrew Marr television show (BBC1) on this issue. I am taking this opportunity to commit the truth in writing also here – on my trusted blog. So here it goes:

As I told Andrew Marr, in the absence of minutes, I often record my interventions and responses on my mobile phone, especially when I adlib them. The purpose is, naturally, so as to be able to recount my exact phrases and, accordingly, to brief my Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Parliament etc. on precisely what I said. I did the same in the Riga Eurogroup meeting and, afterwards, back in Athens, used that recording to work on my brief to my colleagues.

In the following days and weeks, I stood firm against the torrent of lies that flowed for weeks like an out of control sewer. I desisted all provocation and refused to divulge anything of what was said in the meeting – not even to put out there the text of my own speeches (let alone the recording).

To my detractors I have this to say: You have not had any leaks from me during or after any of my meetings. Indeed, no one has respected the confidentiality of those meetings more than I – even during the days and weeks I was being provoked by the news media’s false, personal attacks regarding those meetings.

To fellow Europeans I add this: Perhaps it is time we became a little more sceptical about the journalism we rely upon as citizens. And perhaps we should query European institutions in which decisions of monumental importance are made, on behalf of Europe’s citizenry, but in which minutes are neither taken nor published.

Secrecy and a gullible press do not augur well for Europe’s democracy.

30 thoughts on “The truth about Riga

  1. There is only one way to resolve effectively the European crisis: RESTRICT GERMAN TRADE.

    “Southern Europe is seeking a path that will allow it to escape catastrophic austerity in a Europe that seems unable to generate significant economic growth. If that does not save Southern European nations, they must decide, in simplest terms, whether they are better off defaulting on debt than paying it. While Germany is currently inclined not to force them to this point, it is emerging on its own. This is the fundamental reality of Europe: Germany wants to save the free trade zone, but without absorbing Europe’s bad debts. Southern Europe needs to shift its burden and will eventually reconsider the viability of free trade, though it has not yet done so. Just as there are limits on agricultural trade, why not create the same environment that the Germans enjoyed in the 1950s, when they were able to protect themselves from American industrial exports, thereby growing their industry with minimal competition?”

  2. “Germany has an overwhelming interest in the European Union and its free trade zone. It is an inherently weak nation, as are all countries that are dependent on exports. Germany’s well-being depends on its ability to sell its products. If blocked by an economic downturn among its customers or political impediments to exports, Germany faces a declining economy that can create domestic social crises. Germany must do everything it can to discipline the European Union without motivating its members to leave. (The issue is not leaving the euro, but placing limits on German exports.) Thus Germanic Europe is walking a fine line. It is an economic engine of Europe, but also extremely insecure. Given the fragmentation in the European Union, it must reach out to others, particularly Russia, for alternatives. Russia is not an alternative in itself, but in a bad situation it could be part of a solution if Germany could craft one. This is, of course, a worst-case scenario, but the worst case is often the reality in Europe in the long run.”

    https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/net-assessment-europe

  3. I have unfortunately found as an artist that the mainstream media often lies. Not all the time but very, very often and ALWAYS when money is involved, and money is always involved. The advertisers, who include the big money people, need to create the news “content/message” to profit by it. The bottom line is money. And so many readers choose to prefer to believe a lie told by a supposed “expert” (the media) than to question the status quo because the lie is usually couched in a perverse but always brilliant artistic/aesthetic manner that provokes the reader into an extreme emotional state. But this “naive” reader is not angry at the media/messenger. Rather, he/she is angry at a created scapegoat, something new: a supposed “villain”! This is the power of art used in the most negative sense. This created (and often free) drama for the reader keeps him/her engaged, even enthralled, and now he /she is needing to consuming more and more media messages. The truth, whatever it is, slips away unnoticed in a fog of lies. It even seems the truth does not matter anymore in this fog. The lies are usually more “interesting”. Top notch advertising/design firms and PR people are behind these illusions and they are often very effective. We can take a look at history, especially political history and see this mechanism play out over and over and over again.

  4. Some thoughts on pride and nationalism. How does the left faction and all those like Mr Lafazanis plan for default? What will the government do with the banks? How will it buy essentials, how will it pay salaries and pensions post default? Time to cut the nonsense about Greece’s geopolitical significance and talk specifics. Do you have any clue what you are about to unleash? http://wp.me/p5zzQG-5W

  5. “Secrecy and a gullible press do not augur well for Europe’s democracy.”

    I couldn’t agree more! And I know at least three other germans who are aware of this…

  6. The overwhelming lies and slander against you Yani is a perverted compliment : what you say is true and vital for all Europeans – therefore you must be silenced and denigrated at all cost before your ideas spread. (Too late though, because they HAVE spread!) Painful as this scapegoating is, please remember that we really and truly count on you to resist totally and keep fighting for the good. Everything hangs on it! Never forget: many millions are 100% on your side throughout Europe – and understand full well what is going on.

    As for the media, they are 90% paid propagandists. At least 50% of Europeans are more intelligent and better informed than the laughable rubbish the papers peddle. Inside Greece we are fully aware of the fake blogs and malignant Greek “sources” feeding the foreign press – often in recognisable, easily identified voices, despite their cowardly anonymity.

    This is obviously a fight to the death in which our “partners” are prepared to jettison any remaining luster of the EU and to thoroughly disgust, scare, and even further alienate its citizens.

    Life force!!!

    • I agree with Eleni 100%.The often spiteful comments on Ekathimerini, from bloggers are evidence of a force desperate to deny the truth: a fatal tradition in Greek political life.
      We suffered the media lies and evasions for far too long. These cowards are afraid.

  7. The Western press is wholly owned by those who want to turn Greece into a nation of Oliver Twists’. All independent thinkers and voices have by now been purged. Consolidation has run its damaging course. The western world no more has a free press than the old Soviet Union did – the state of it is perhaps worse at this point. Today’s western, corporate press and the old, Soviet party press have different masters, certainly. But we’re seeing now the same results of impossibly narrow viewpoints and “follow the leader” mentality.

    Is this democracy? No. Not at all.

  8. Some questions .. that you can obviously not afford to answer:

    1. My impression is that this is like an accident with many bystanders. All players (=Euro fin mins, leaders) are waiting for somebody else to do something. The Commission is a bystander, but not really part of the game. All wait for Germany and maybe France to signal when to acknowledge that there is no escape, and find a constructive solution. Merkel (and Hollande) are the ones that have to bite the bullet. And they can only do that when it will be absolutely clear that nothing more can be requested from a very diminished Greece.

    2. The last iterations of payment have shown a Greece that demonstratively scraped the last bits at the very bottom of the barrel. An expensive signalling that this can not be sustained. Once the inevitable conclusion will sink in that some default must be accepted, it is in everybody’s interest to make it happen quickly, and somewhat orderly. It does look like this idea is slowly starting to sink in.

    3. News media still talk of ‘grexit’ as if this is some magic solution. But it is clear that if Greeks want a default inside the Euro system, that is what will have to happen. The only way to force Greece out of the Euro would be to find a way to make that transition in a smooth fashion. But why not then do that inside the Euro, and thereby demonstrate that the Euro system can adapt and survive?

    4. Whatever happens, losses will have to be accepted. The ideology that ignores the capacity of the ECB to absorb losses will have to be violated. The mistaken money-creation policy was in the past, creating the bubble that has already burst. Too late to fix that now. Monetising these losses now will not cause inflation, or give anybody large amounts of cash, not create moral hazard, but just allow Greece to start again. There is no risk Greece will want to ever repeat this. It makes no sense to extract the money from taxpayers in other Euro countries. The ECB will need to do what other central banks have done in emergencies: monetise bad/zombie debt.

    5. Since doing this is against the rules, it will need to be camouflaged by making the debt (pseudo) perpetual. Or the dramatic ‘bailout’ iterations could be replaced by more honestly ‘rolling over’ the debt, without all this drama, and for a very long time. Of course in the longer term we must realise that the current rules are impossible, and change them.

    I’m very curious if these issues can be discussed and understood in the Eurogroup, maybe at informal moments. They are clearly not yet ready to openly communicate such questions to the outside world.

    … it is very unfortunate that the media gets distracted from such subtle questions by whipping up a frenzied shouting match. Explaining what is happening before us is their basic task. It isn’t just about Greece, but about the capability of the Euro system to evolve and adapt to a reality that was not foreseen in the original set of rules.

  9. The media’s competitiveness to get a ‘scoop’, to be the first with ‘breaking news’ has very, very often led to false reporting based on guess-work, and pure invention in many cases.

    On the other side of the coin we know that our Greek media traditionally do not report facts which are true, but which upset their political masters.

  10. The whole ‘negotiations’ scene has done greatly to diminish my romantic expectations from the EU dream. The “press” in a crisis is very prone to manipulation from “interests” of all kinds that throughout the years have gained power both in individual EU states and the bureaucratic chaos of Brussels. The current line is “throw lots of mud, and something will stick at the end”. The threat though is not in your person as they wrongly think, but in the ideas you have unleashed and are now working as antivirus. The cure might be slow, but is for sure coming. What form it will take, I am not sure… but it is not going to be anything like the present mess. Persevere!

  11. Although we are on the other side of the fence politically, I agree with most of your your economic analysis and feel a great deal of personal sympathy with you and your ordeal with the Eurozone elite as Greek finance minister. I am appalled by the slander campaign against you. Likewise appalling to see so many Greeks siding (perhaps out of Stockholm syndrome or more likely rayiadismos) with EU hardliners like Schauble and denouncing you a fellow Greek defending your country. Indeed it is amusing to see for the first time a serious and well regarded economist take on the actual amateurs in economics, who are the EU elite and question them on their dismal track record and countless policy failures. You have unmasked this and opened a public policy debate that was until now taboo in the halls of the EU. Not surprising that you have so many enemies.

    Where we part is what I perceive as your romanticism about the EU Superstate and Eurozone project that I see as a highly repressive, economically dysfunctional system that is a mortal threat to civil liberty and economic and political freedoms. I want a looser and more decentralized system with flexible currency rates and most powers vested in the member nation states with a considerably downsized EU bureaucracy.

    • So you are happy with five years of depression, 27% unemployment / 50-60% youth unemployment and massive youth emigration and your pressing for another EU Ponzi loan to repay the IMF??? I suppose you do not realize that the IMF itself is fed up with being embroiled with the EU dipshits and want out of this, seeing the mess that the EU has made in Greece and cognizant that Greece is more deeply insolvent than ever….

    • I hope you are well paid for this garbage, IG. We are on to you big time.

  12. Yanis,

    the whole think-tank I represent is firmly behind you. The best way to silence your critics is by achieving the best possible deal. They want it or not, those they oppose it, change is inevitable.
    None was expecting institutionalised ideas to be modified within 4 months.
    That said, if the institutions within the EU need to change are we using the right “social enzymes” to modify their DNA structure?
    Can their structure be modified within 4 months or we need a step change?
    The Greek problem it is socio-economic, as you rightly said in the past, instead of a purely economic one and no economic solution will be successful without accepting that the Greeks “serve” different institutions than the Portuguese the Spanish or the Irish.
    However we wander are our current “red lines” reflect these differences? Do they describe accurately the Institutional resistance in Greece? We would insist that a curve is a line as well. Bending them we may be able to accommodate more change at a later stage while keeping them intact.
    We did actually submitted an idea with a “curved” line to Mr Marthas which you may find useful in the post-agreement near future.

    Whole-heartedly behind you

    The Gaianomy TT

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s