Friday, February 19, 2010

It was them nasty banks wot did it

Or so says Chancellor Merkel in somewhat more elegant German than my English is in the title. The message is the same, though: the banks helped Greece to be creative with their accounts in order to go into the euro and stay in it. We knew nothing.

Chancellor Merkel has thus demonstrated that she is, indeed, suffering from that amnesia described by Allister Heath and noted by this blog yesterday. That creative accounting and the international banks' role in it has been known for several years but the other eurozone governments and the Commission chose to turn a blind eye, hoping against hope that this political project will triumph over economic inevitabilities.

When you try to envisage the fall-out from a possible euro collapse caused by all the problems and tensions predicted by sceptical commentators, both economic and political, it becomes apparent that the people who put together this delusional project were suffering from so much hubris that they cared nothing about the consequences. Indeed, they did not think there could be consequences.

Meanwhile, Greek MPs who are refusing to go along with the Prime Minister's somewhat inadequate austerity package, have decided that their best bet is to remind everyone of World War II. They are furious that Germany dares to criticize them for their fiscal misdemeanours and are demanding compensation for crimes committed during the German occupation.

Undoubtedly, there were crimes. The war in the Balkans was nasty even by World War II's standards. But the Greeks are missing two important points: the first is the time for compensation has gone. Chancellor Merkel, the child of post-war East Germany is unlikely to look kindly on such blatant demands; and, furthermore, given the amount of money Greece has had from the EU one way or another, that compensation has been paid in full and then some. Right now, they need more money from the rest of the EU, particularly Germany, and screaming abuse may not be the right policy. It does, however, make them feel that they are full of θυμός or thymos, the courage or spiritedness of the Ancients and makes them forget that they are actually begging those barbarians to come and rescue them. Let us have some sympathy, please.


  1. They should have remembered the old axiom, beware greeks bearing gifts. Although, I suppose they knew exactly what was inside that trojan horse given they helped build it. And now I'm going to stop murdering this metaphor before my classicist wife murders me. :)

  2. A little history lesson for my Greek brethren:

    The Federal Republic of Germany was opposed to Greece's joining the EEC at the end of the 1970s. The European Commission was also opposed.

    It was only a lot of political arm-twisting by the then Greek PM Karamanlis (uncle of the recent Greek PM Karamanlis) that got Greece's membership approved. And amongst the arm-twisting arguments he used was precisely the one saying that the country (Germany) which had destroyed Europe in WWII should not dare have objections to a small country wanting to improve its standing.

    As Helen rightly says, German has compensated Greece in full and then some ... in both monetary terms and in terms of political capital.

    Greece has no more IOU cards to play, and no moral high ground to occupy.


  3. Nick, do you think what is happening will sober some Greek politicians up? And what is public opinion like in the country. Hard to tell without being able to read the language.

    I do love the way all present and recent Ministers and Prime Ministers are closely related to previous ones. A Whig form of government.

  4. Greece is finished and has no future.

    Phone Ankara and tell them they there is 51,000 square miles of real-estate up for grabs.

  5. pissed off GreekMay 6, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Up yours dickhead. Go suck some Turkish cock next time you're there for holidays.