Troika quits Athens ‘very happy with austerity progress’

Geopolitical tussle for East Med/Aegean riches hots up

Yesterday, The Slog pointed out, ‘It’s emerged that the ECB’s Governing Council agreed at its meeting on Thursday to increase the upper limit for the amount of Greek short-term loans the Bank of Greece can accept in exchange for emergency loans….Mario Draghi is giving the signal that anything goes rather than having Greece default.’

Up until then, the Troikanauts in Athens were describing their meetings with the Samaras Government as ‘deadlocked’. I added at the time, ‘they’re becoming adept at leaking to all and sundry how the Athens Coalition’s projections on tax collection are “ridiculously over-optimistic”.

But suddenly this evening CET, Greek MSM paper Kathemirini reports that ‘A three-hour meeting between government ministers and officials representing the country’s international creditors — the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika — ended on Sunday with the IMF envoy Poul Thomsen saying there had been great progress in finalizing a package of 11.5 billion euros in budget cuts for 2013 and 2014.’

“The meeting went well. We made great progress. We will take a break and come back in early September,  Thomsen was quoted as telling reporters after the meeting with his counterparts from the EU and ECB, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.

The key phrase there is ‘come back in early September’. Over the last 96 hours, the Troika had reported back to Berlin-am-Brussels and Frankfurt to say that, unless they were given more resources to keep the show on the road, the Greeks would default, and as their repayment plans were all over the place, the IMF was likely to pull out immediately.

At last, the music had stopped…and Draghi had the parcel. He had no choice but to free up more money. Effectively, he gave the Bank of Greece access to ECB funds – the sort of deal France continues to lust after. The sort of deal which will allow Greece to meet its late-August debt repayment schedules.

There are two factors that forced his hand. First, despite the poker bluffing of recent months, the private eurobanking system is not ready for a full-on messy Greek default with incalculable derivative consequences. But probably of greater weight over the last few months, there is no doubt that the East Med-to-Arab-Spring Cold War is heating up – and the full scale of the undersea wealth under the waters around Greece has become clearer.

Forgive me for labouring this point, but with every day that passes, more evidence comes to the fore supporting the geopolitical considerations in play. Tomorrow, Israeli President Simon Peres flies into Athens. Talking to Greek broadcaster Mega TV, Peres stressed the importance of energy cooperation among Israel, Greece and Cyprus and underlined that Turkey has to respect International Law when it comes to recognition of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.

Already, the Israeli President is schmoozing the Greek media bigtime. Talking about the historical bonds between Greece and Israel, for example, Peres revealed a personal story: that his father hid in a Greek monastery during the Second World War. Oiveh, and they didn’t convert him? What kind of salesmen were they?

But the Americans are worried by the Turks, NATO partner or not. This might have something to do with the growing realisation over at State that Recep Erdogan is a taramasalata short of a meze. Erdoğan has now convinced himself that Turkey is  the one true “owner” of the Olympic flame, and indeed the Olympic spirit itself. He argues that a short distance from Antalya, is Mount Olympus. To be more precise than Erdo the Odd, it’s 96 kms away to the South-West…but let’s not get hung up on the detail here.

On Mount Olympus, the ground is heated naturally by methane in the subsoil.  The legend of the Olympic flame, it seems, comes from this area: ergo sum, the Olympics are Turkish. Indeed, during Erdogan’s meeting with Olympic Games chief Jacques Rogge last week, the Turkish PM said that Turkey demands the Olympic Flame thus be returned home….conveniently timed to coincide with Turkey’s bid for the Olympic Games of 2020. That’s one way to influence the IOC, I suppose.

This methane heating thing seems a bit smelly to me, especially as we are talking legend re this one. Also, I’m no classicist, but in the little I did learn of ancient history at school, I don’t recall anyone called Kemal or Fazil racing for the finishing line in the Greek games. However, the major flaw in this rewritten Recep rubbish is that, um, at the time of which he babbles, the area was Greek. The ancient city of Olympos lies in ruins today, but it was founded in Hellenistic times, becoming part of the Roman empire in 78 BC. Nothing called Turkey figures very highly at the time.

The chief of Greece’s London Olympics mission Isidoros Kouvelos told Athens News yesterday, ““I would cordially like to invite Mr. Erdogan and his minister Mr. Kilic to ancient Olympia, to where the Olympic Academy resides, so they can both attend some interesting lectures on Olympic history”.

Joking aside, the Turkish desire to retain (and maintain) a nationality foothold in the Cyprus area goes back 55 years, according to British Foreign Office papers released last week. Turkish Cypriot leader Fazil Kucuk noted after a meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister on January 16, 1957, that the Turkish Cypriot community would not agree to anything but partition…that is to say, he was not willing to go with the principle of majority self-determination – despite the fact that those of Greek origin make up just over three-quarters of the island’s population. British Colonial Secretary John Reddaway confirmed on June 29, 1957, that the Turkish government opposed a unitary state in Cyprus. Bit of a shame he didn’t have the spine to tell Ankara to go forth and multiply, really.

But fast-forwarding to 2012, the bottom line is this: the Americans, the Sprouts, the Israelis and the Turks have a lot at stake here. What happens to the Hellenic Republic is about far, far more than debt. Stay tuned.

ALSO AT THE SLOG TODAY: ‘Multicultural Britain’ wakes up to face some harsh realities.