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.