quinta-feira, 5 de fevereiro de 2015
Mentioning the war: a Greek strategy to win German hearts
Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, was in Berlin on Thursday for a meeting with Wolfgang Schäuble, his fiscally hardline German counterpart, as he seeks to alter the terms of the European bailout. The two are not natural soulmates; Schäuble is a formal and old-style German politician while Varoufakis is an ebullient and youthful 53-year-old, an economics blogger and professor at Essex, Sydney and Athens universities who dresses with nightclub-bouncer chic and whose party uses the imagery of the Nazi occupation to rally Greek resistance.
Wolfgang Schäuble: Good morning, we expected you earlier.
Yanis Varoufakis: I apologise, I was paying a visit to the site of Hitler’s Bunker.
WS: Yes. You are all rather fond of Nazi sites. I saw your leader’s visit to the memorial to Greeks shot by the Nazis. Perhaps you will find time to squeeze in a visit to Wannsee while you are in Berlin.
YV: Let us not get off on the wrong foot. I’ve come with a present for you.
WS: How thoughtful. Is it a book?
YV: Yes, Anthony Beevor’s Crete: the Battle and the Resistance.
WS: Of course, Greeks and gifts.
YV: You must understand, I mention Nazis not as an insult but as a warning of what happens when a country is reduced to national humiliation and unending hopelessness. We now have Nazis in our own country, we think Germany, of all nations, would want to help us resist them. You know how we feel.
WS: This is why you also threaten to pursue Germany for war-reparations, out of your desire for a common front?
YV: You have to understand. Some of our Nazi references are for internal consumption and some are for your consumption. You must not confuse the two. I want a strong Germany. A Germany leading Europe; lifting all the boats on Europe’s seabed.
WS: So you do not mind a powerful Germany as long as it is doing as you wish. If we waive your debts and let you abandon reform, then we are not an army of occupation. You do not mind a powerful creditor as long as he keeps paying.
YV: We are simply asking for help.
WS: And we wish to help. We wish to help you to help yourself. But we also need trust and reliability, a belief that if a country makes an agreement that it can be counted on to fulfil it.
YV: But the programme is bringing my country to despair. Do you want me to mention the Nazis again?
WS: I believe I caught that message.
YV: We are in a savage debt crisis. You gave the largest loan in history to an insolvent nation. We came to you with a mortgage problem and you offer us credit cards. Our people voted for a better future — that was our promise to them.
WS: A promise made on someone else’s bank account.
YV: We need time to work out a new programme. We need you to keep supporting the bailout beyond February 28, while we work out new terms that you will not like.
YV: We want you to cancel our debt, reduce the required budget surplus and allow us to cancel privatisations.
WS: Writing off the debt is not acceptable to the German people.
YV: Do I need to mention the last time German debts were written off?
WS: I am surprised you haven’t.
YV: I thought I would go to Dachau before I head home.
WS: Yes, yes. You are going on an entire Third Reich tour. The best you can hope for is extending the maturity of debt and some breathing space for a tax reform programme. Do not put yourself in a position where you are forced to leave the euro. We would not wish it but we cannot prevent it under all circumstances.
YV: We will not leave the euro. As the Eagles say, you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.
WS: I doubt Don Henley studied the intricacies of Maastricht treaty.
YV: You must respect our mandate from a people not prepared to put up with endless austerity.
WS: I know you are an expert in game theory but I urge you not to overplay your hand.
YV: Half measures and compromise are not enough this time.
WS: Something you learnt at Essex?
YV: It’s the only way.
WS: We will have to agree to disagree.
YV: I cannot agree to that.