A Greek Drama (a BBC Radio Play) – My 10 factual corrections

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As I am a central character in this dramatisation of the five month-long standoff between our government and the Eurogroup/Troika, I am loath to offer a critical review. However, it may be useful to listeners (but also to the BBC’s production team) to correct some factual errors.

I shall, of course, refrain fully from commenting on crucial events/dialogues that are (in my view) missing or on judgements implied by the piece’s authors. When the time comes, I shall offer my full version of events. Until then, here are some factual errors that I spotted while listening.

  1. The play opens with a dialogue (in the presence of PM Tsipras) between myself and George Chouliarakis (my deputy at the Eurogroup) that was meant to have taken place in the early days and weeks of our government. In it George and I appear to clash regarding how we ought to approach the negotiations with the Troika. No such dialogue, or indeed disagreement, transpired. Especially at that early stage.
  2. The play makes repeated references to my appeal to Game Theory and its principles/teachings. Not once did I refer to Game Theory or to game theoretic concepts that ought to guide us. As I explained in a New York Times op-ed at the time, I never believed that Game Theory was or practical use in real life. (Indeed, previously I had spent two decades warning my University students that anyone who tries to apply Game Theory to real life situations, especially in a negotiation, is dangerous.)
  3. The dialogues between Jeroen Dijsselbloem (the Eurogroup’s President) and I that were meant to have taken place on the telephone and then in my office at the end of January 2015 are highly inaccurate. The gist of these discussions was quite different. (Amongst other inaccuracies, I never said to him that “we need time to restore pensions and minimum wages.” Especially on the minimum wages, I was willing to compromise from the outset.)
  4. My first meeting with Wolgand Schäuble in February 2015 took place not in the context of the 11th February Eurogroup but a week before in his office in Berlin. As for the dialogue we were supposed to have had, my recollection of it is starkly different to the play’s.
  5. Following my first Eurogroup meeting, on 11th February, Jeroen Dijsselbloem did not come to our hotel on the night but on the following morning. Again, the actual conversation was very different to the one in the dramatisation. In particular, regarding my use of language, I never used (in that meeting or any other) offensive phrases such as “you were bullshitting me”. In any case, that particular conversation between Dijsselbloem and myself (on his misleading statements on the side-lines of the 11th February Eurogroup) took place on a different occasion.
  6. The phrase “When talking to the Eurogroup on the economics of our bailout program sometimes I felt as if I were singing the Swedish national anthem” was one that I used after I had resigned the ministry (to convey the lack of substance of the Eurogroup meetings). The playwright chose to weave that expression into something I said inside the Eurogroup. (This is important to the extent that this, otherwise appropriate, dramatic licence reinforces the media’s attempt to present my Eurogroup interventions as provocative – when they were not.)
  7. In another dramatised conversation between Dijsselbloem and I, the Eurogroup President is presented as appealing to collegiality amongst 19 finance ministers while I appear to revel in my status as a minority of one, saying “I am one against eighteen”. Neither of us made such statements or took these positions.
  8. Following the 20th February Eurogroup agreement, the play stages a conversation in a hotel room, between PM Tsipras and myself, in which the PM disagrees strongly with me on the degree to which we ought to compromise – and challenges me with the words “I cannot let my country default”. This did not happen. (During that period we were still speaking with the same voice and working as one.)
  9. After the 24th April Riga Eurogroup meeting, as the play suggests, PM Tsipras and I did disagree strongly on the wisdom of his concessions on austerity (that had, indeed, been granted without consulting with me). But the dramatisation’s insinuation that he criticised me for having kept aspects of the negotiations from him is factually false. (PM Tsipras always acknowledged that before making any ‘move’ I sought his approval.)
  10. A crucial error on dates: Toward the play’s end, the narrator ‘places’ the timing of a pivotal meeting in which I was outvoted (on our response to the Troika’s endgame) on the night of the referendum (5th July). In fact, that meeting had taken place a week before, on Sunday 28th June. The issue was how to respond to the Troika’s hyper-aggressive act to close down our banks on the following Monday 29th June. The proposal that I made, and which was defeated 4 to 2, did not (as the play suggests) include that “we reduce our debt by 40%” but, far more realistically, to reschedule the redemption of the €27 billion of Greek government bonds held by the ECB.

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