Tag Archives: Israel

Greece, a Baklava Republic

An interesting overview of today’s Greece, by Vanessa Andris for the Huffington Post.

It is not at all unreasonable that any intelligent person trying to make sense of Greece’s recent maniacal antics is now desperately asking, “What is this, a banana republic?”

Well my friend, no, not exactly. This is a Baklava Republic.

Welcome to a country stuck in its own syrup. A place where a prime minister, Mr. Papandreou, calls for a public referendum on a bailout deal without even notifying the finance minister who has spent months negotiating the deal with the lenders and his fellow Greek ministers. A republic where one egomaniac, Antonis Samaras, can autocratically hold an entire terrified nation and trembling world markets hostage by refusing to sign an agreement- which he publicly says he agrees to.

Greece, a country which a year ago seemed centuries ahead of the Arab Spring is now regressing so quickly into the most hideous practices of Baklava Republics that any kind of spring for them seems light years away.

The Greeks have exasperated their supporters and all but exhausted even the EU, the stakeholder with maybe the most to lose from their demise. They have displayed such primitive responses to difficulties that no one in the global community really wants to deal with them anymore.

In one year, and particularly in the last month of unpredictable counter-productive episodes, the Greeks have virtually alienated themselves from the civilized world they themselves fathered centuries ago.

If you think that what Sarkozy and Obama said about Netanyahu while their microphones were on was bad, imagine what they and the EU and IMF might rightfully be saying about the Greeks. And note the Baklava parallels between the Greek and Israeli leadership, starting with a lack of transparency and ending with complete impossibility.

Since the debt crisis began, we have watched our beloved Greece, dizzy with fatigue and despair, teetering on the fulcrum of its future, leaning first northwest like an insecure sophomore posturing to fit in with the polished seniors of the EU.

Then suddenly like all people under stress, reverting to her primal training on how to survive. Swooning now east to circle around the Mediterranean tragically re-identifying herself with cousins from ancient civilizations that have made minimal progress in their development; Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and even Libya.

These are the Baklava Republics, a continuum of countries related by variations on one pastry, characterized by a pathetic lack of process skills, rule of law as it serves individual agendas, leaders incapable and disinterested in self-regulation, and proud of their willingness to destroy any and everything in the name of defending their dignity.

A string of countries differentiating themselves from the rest of world with a combination of primary commitment to face-saving, a need to create drama, and a defiance of reality so insanely illogical and destructive that people world-wide see them as nuts.

Not sure whether a given country could be considered a Baklava Republic? Here’s a litmus test: Are the leaders instantly insulted by anything that can be construed as questioning their honesty or good intentions? Is their best defense acting as if they have been monumentally offended? Do they regularly elevate issues to fight or flight dramas?

From Samaras to Ahmadinejad, we see the masters of Baklava Republic tactics regularly enact a predictable but no less maddening three-act drama.

Act One: Outrage: A question about duplicitous behavior is met with incredulous anger; “You dare to question me?”

Act Two: Arrogance: “You have insulted me and anyone who would be so ill-mannered is so far beneath me that they are unworthy of my cooperation.”

Act Three: Threat: “I am a victim, rightfully volatile now because of your behavior. Either provide me a face-saving way to get out of this or I will sabotage this process, set fire to the whole country, commit mass invasions, and/or make my child a suicide martyr. It’s dignity or death.” (Additional Baklava Republic specialty: Add concocted conspiracy theory and implication that the alleged perpetrator is evil, sinful, or crazy to Act Two).

To read the whole article click here.

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 4)

This is the 4th part of Greek journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos’ article on the run-up to the current Greek economic crisis, published by “To Vima” newspaper (16/10/2011). The first part of the article is here, the second part is here and the third part is here.

“Neither Papandreou nor any of us believe in the Memorandum” says a Minister. “I’ll remind you that the Medium-Term Program was fifth in the row when discussed at the Cabinet, right after the legislation for companion dogs. The whole government is in denial”. This denial led to a blackmail, using the drachma. On Friday 6 May 2011 Papaconstantinou traveled to Luxembourg for a secret meeting with several powerful euro zone Finance Ministers, presided by the Eurogroup head, Jean Claude Juncker.

According to the most probable version the cause of that meeting was that, some days earlier, Papandreou had implied at a talk with German officials that the Memorandum’s policy and the German strictness on its implementation could make Greece return to the drachma. This indirect threat annoyed the Germans. It is alleged that Wolfgang Schaeuble himself leaked the information to Der Spiegel Magazine, which posted it in its web edition that Friday evening, after the closure of euro zone banks, in order to drag the Greek government into a disorderly retreat.

Despite the upheaval that was caused in Athens, Papandreou delayed for two hours (!) to allow the then government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis to issue a rudimentary rebuttal. He first wanted to learn the European partners’ reaction to the “Greek ultimatum”. The reaction was not a polite one. Papaconstantinou was attacked by Juncker and and Schaeuble, while Jean Claude Trichet left the meeting within a few minutes. The “Greek blackmail” collapsed but it inspired Schaeuble to examine the famous “Plan B”, which is a “euro zone without Greece”. Despite all these, the Greek demands for a new bailout program with decreased interest rates and a prolongation of the deadlines for loan repayments were accepted. It was exchanged with a deeper “domestic devaluation” (of prices and incomes) through a Medium-Term Program which almost led to the fall of the government.

George Papandreou with Dominique Strauss Kahn

Papandreou maintained a secret communication channel with Dominique Strauss Kahn, looking for a platform for IMF intervention in Europe. Within the Papandreou family the IMF is thought to be an organization with a positive impact around the world. Papandreou’s brother, Nikos Papandreou, who participates decisively in the administration of the country (though always in backstage), was a supporter of the recourse to the IMF. The Papandreous believed that an advanced “international” model of administration should be applied to Greece. They have underestimated the fact that IMF means submission.

The Pushkin Cafe in Moscow

While the prime ministerial mind was lying in Washington D.C., where the IMF headquarters are, Moscow brought Greece closer to… Tel Aviv. The first secret meeting between Papandreou and the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, took place at the Russian capital’s Pushkin Café. Greece would provide Israel an alliance and the gateway it needed to push the Leviathan deposit’s natural gas towards Europe. The energy diplomacy with Israel (which couldn’t start paying off but in 5-10 years) was considered a basic component of the strategy for the avoidance of bankruptcy (!). So this is why time was passing by and the government was taking zero efficiency measures, the government’s staffing was carried out through open.gov (unless Nikos Papandreou was intervening in order to promote persons of his own influence into key-posts) and the Ministers were in a constant state of confusion when it came to strategy and responsibilities.

George Papandreou in Davos (January 2010 - photo by Reuters)

The real shock for the Prime Minister came at Davos, at the end of January 2010. “The Hungarian Prime Minister approached me and told me to take measures” Papandreou said to the Cabinet meeting that he called right after his return. “Things are different compared to how they were a month ago” added Papaconstantinou. The Social Democrat Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, had recent experience with the IMF and wanted to share it with Papandreou. Some time later, he would be defeated at the elections by the Right. After Davos, the atmosphere within the Greek government was like a funeral. They had realized that they “lost” the time. Likewise they also lost the banks. “For a long time they believed that the warnings from bankers were only about the banks’ interests” say sources from the banking sector. They were too late to realize that the state’s exclusion from the markets is accompanied by a similar exclusion of the banks, having as a result the postponing of lending to individuals and corporations which slows down the economic activity, spreads poverty and increases unemployment.

The European Mechanism which was presented in 25 March caused the markets’ attack to Greece instead of making them not to do so. Why would the markets lend a state when they can much more safely lend the Mechanism that would then lend the state? Greek bond yields skyrocketed in mid-April 2010. On Friday 23 April, the Prime Minister had a planned visit to the tiny island of Kastellorizo, which had to do with issues of regional development. During Wednesday and Thrusday before the trip the telephones in the Maximou Mansion and the Finance Ministry didn’t stop ringing. Heads of governments and Finance Ministers of big states were calling Papandreou and Papaconstantinou. They were demanding that Greece recourses to the Mechanism because the crisis was hitting bank trust towards their own countries jeopardizing their future.

“Are we going to cancel the trip to Kastellorizo?” Papandreou was asked by his associates. “Why should we cancel it? Life goes on” he replied and added “I will make the announcements from Kastellorizo”. The circumstances necessitated a purple tie. In a surreal scenery, with a small fishing boat sailing in the picturesque port, the Prime Minister called forth metaphors from the Odyssey.

He wasn’t wrong. The odyssey for Greece had just started and he was aware of it. This is why he avoided signing the Memorandum. He wanted to avoid an odyssey of an agreement which could chase him forever. The new “social contract” was signed only by Finance Minister Papaconstantinou. Probably the only Minister who really believed that the Memorandum could actually save Greece…

The Memorandum was signed only by George Papaconstantinou

End of Part 4 of 4.