Greece, EU strike deal to negotiate 3rd bailout
Greece and her creditors have reached an agreement to begin negotiations on a third bailout for Athens as long as Greece fulfills several obligations over the next few days.
Note that this is not a bailout agreement. It is an agreement to reach an agreement if Greece basically gives up its sovereignty and becomes a ward of Germany and the EU.
There has never been a deal like this in the annals of European diplomacy. The Versailles Treaty that imposed harsh terms on Germany in 1919 is a picnic compared to what Greece agreed to.
Here are some of the terms:
* Greece to pass by Wednesday measures including simplifying VAT rates and applying the tax more widely, cutting back on pensions and making the national statistics agency independent.
* Greece to set clear timetable for following measures:
- ambitious pension reform;
- market reform including Sunday trading, pharmacy ownership and opening of closed professions such as ferries;
- privatize electricity transmission network;
- review collective bargaining, industrial action and collective dismissals;
- strengthen financial sector, including action on non-performing loans and eliminate political interference.
Everything that the far-left party now in power in Greece opposed when they won the elections last January is part of the agreement.
* Following actions to be taken:
- privatization, possibly involving transfer of 50 billion euros of assets to external and independent fund;
- cut costs of public administration and reduce political influence over it. First proposal to be provided in a week.
- seek creditor approval for key legislation before submitting to public consultation or parliament.
The above-listed commitments are minimum requirements to start the negotiations with the Greek authorities.
Got that? "Creditor approval" for legislation. That translates into German approval. In effect, Greece will be a German protectorate if the Greek parliament swallows this bitter pill.
And how about 50 billion euros' worth of Greek assets being taken from them and given over to an "independent fund" (Germany) to pay down the debt?
In short, Greece is being ordered to give up its sovereignty in exchage for debt slavery. Remarkable.
Tsipras is a dead man walking, of course. His party, Syriza, isn't in any better shape. He will likely call for new elections, after which some kind of national unity government is likely.
What of the Greek people? Even before the deal was announced, there was a surreal atmosphere in Athens as people who voted against the harsh bailout measures last weekend are at a loss to explain why even harsher measures are being negotiated:
“People are starting to lose their minds,” said Ms. Christoforidi, a 37-year-old employee at a coffee shop, who would glance at the TV as she worked. “I’m so confused myself, I talk to all the customers, we have the news on all day, but I’m at a loss.”
What started as a shock move by radical-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in the wee hours of June 27, when he pulled his negotiating team out of talks and announced a referendum, has since turned into a drama of Homeric proportions.
Mr. Tsipras promised to use Greek voters’ overwhelming rejection of creditors’ bailout proposals to bring home better terms and less austerity in exchange for a generous rescue package from Europe. He demanded debt relief from eurozone countries.
Instead, Mr. Tsipras drafted proposals more onerous than the ones the majority of Greeks had rejected, leaving those who backed him in the referendum scratching their heads.
“So I voted for ‘no,’ but in fact it meant ‘yes,’ ” Ms. Christoforidi said, sprinkling a cappuccino with cinnamon. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Others said they were relieved that the Greek premier was now pushing for some kind of agreement, even if it was worse than what the nation had rejected. Still, they were angry that negotiations were proving so tough.
“Look, Tsipras has completely messed up in the handling of this crisis,” said lawyer Vassilis Vlastos. “I voted against the proposals in the referendum to help him get better terms, but now it seems even that wasn’t enough.” “He’s done the deed, he’s gone back to the negotiating table to sacrifice more to keep Greece in the euro, and the Germans still won’t take it. They just want us out, no matter what.”
The impact of such confusion is huge, said John Dimakis, director at Athens-based communications consultancy STR, which conducts public-opinion research.
“An alarming proportion of the Greek public is showing deeply irrational behavior, and over the past few weeks we are seeing striking contradictions between what people say they want and how they vote or who they support,” he said. “How can we decipher their preferences when they have no rational basis?”
It's possible that this agreement to begin negotiations on another agreement for a Greek bailout will fall apart in the next 48 hours. There has already been a revolt by the more radical Syriza deputies over terms that Tsipras was offering. And given the incredibly harsh terms, you have to wonder if there is a majority of parliament who will go along with the tax increases and pension reform that creditors are demanding be passed by Wednesday.
But Greece really has no choice. Either they give up their sovereignty or their economy totally collapses. Not much of a choice for the arrogant, strutting, smirking Alexis Tsipras, who so antagonized the rest of Europe with his theatrical antics that the endgame playing out now is entirely his fault.