As Draghi this morning confirmed the strictures applied to the Greek fiscal situation, the ECB denied any blackmail of Athens on its part. And in Berlin, Prime Minister Tsipras of Greece had 48 hours of his precious time wasted reviewing troops, attending a non-meeting with Chancellor Merkel, giving a surreal press conference, and then eating dinner.
I flicked desperately across various UK, US and French news site broadcasts around 18:30 CET today, but it rapidly became clear that none of them were going live to the Berlin press conference starring ageing juvenile lead Geli Merkel, and new kid on the block Alexis ‘Johnny Cash’ Tsipras. After trying a German station offering zero translation, I reverted grudgingly to the Daily Telegraph site, whose open blog told me most of what I needed to know.
In the build-up to this meaningless charade, Bloomberg TV, BBCNews, SkyNews, the FT, Telegraph and Guardian spent much of today warbling on about ‘Grexit’, a possibility that at the moment doesn’t exist in the Treaty of Lisbon. So too did the sites at Reuters, AP, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
So far in the last month, I have seen one (1) account in the Western/Anglo-Saxon MSM attempting to discuss the issue of Grexit being impossible, and stratagems that might be employed by the Troika to force such an issue. But as Goebbels remarked nearly 80 years ago, one big lie works far more effectively than a dozen small ones – if repeated often enough. I find it terrifying that two entire continents have been led by low-grade media information (and deliberate EU intent) into believing in “a likelihood” that is a myth. But then, Jihadist beheadings (when genuine) are based on very little more than 1500 years of lies about virgins in Heaven.
Following some dire forebodings at the weekend, whoever is stage-directing this latest episode in David & Goliath II had decided the euro needed perking up a bit: so throughout the day we were gradually given more and more hints, tips, ‘feelings’, ‘senses’ and ‘airs’ about the possibility of a deal. Indeed, the euro had gained five cents since its low point, standing at 1.37 to Sterling. This appeared to be its holding position until such time as there was more solid information.
Talking of which, as The Slog predicted earlier, the news conference was put back an hour (this particular plot device should be laid to rest from now on: it’s become a cliché) and so as the hour ticked by and another half hour passed, we were relieved when Tsipras (who, it turned out, was invited to dinner) emerged free of bruises and able to stand up unaided.
It is significant that neither leader was sporting a translation earphone. This followed closely the tradition thus far of neither side listening to what the other was saying.
Merkel spoke first, and it was beyond tame. There had been a debate, it had been heated, nothing had been agreed or decided. Greece, she said, needed many structural reforms, and a strong budget. Europe needed to be able to trust Greece. Europe expected Greece to fulfil its obligations.
Tsipras followed, and was well-mannered – perhaps even conciliatory: unbelievably, he said “There is no other way to understand each other than to engage in dialogue” – amusing given that neither leader knew what the other was saying. But he was aware of the cash-flow (cash-low, even) problem. Greece, he said, needed time, big reforms and a strong economy. War reparations were an ethical issue.
There were no signs at this point that big reforms and structural reforms, strong budgets and strong economies, or cash-flow problems and obligatory trust might be congruent in any way whatsoever. The presser was 100% deficient in solid information. It was virtual information, but in the old pre-digital sense of the word: that is, almost but not quite information just yet, as such.
In fact, the one solid promise the Syriza leader made was not to do something. He promised not to confiscate German government buildings in Athens as any kind of down-payment on the Nazi rape of Greece from 1941-44. Joy was uncontained at the news.
This farce is, let’s face it, more ridiculous than any satire could ever be. But nihil desperandum squire, because we still have market reactions to come; they’re usually good for a gag or two.
I’m sorry to return to an old theme, but the game being played here is more obvious than the dress sense of tarts in Montmartre. [Sorry, sex workers. Must be correct at all times]. It is to waste the time of – and demand the provision of information from – every level of Greek Government to ensure that there’s no spare time during which anything too radical might happen: and meanwhile, to undermine that government in myriad other ways.
Only today, for example, the ECB denied it was ‘blackmailing’ Syriza. But then Salvador Draghi defended the ECB’s stance on banning Greek bonds as collateral and reaffirmed his position that Athens prove its commitment to reforms. Er, this isn’t blackmail? Also – as I keep bashing on about but nobody’s prepared to listen – the refusal to give Greece the benefits haha of QE is illegal under the codicils of the Lisbon Treaty and eurozone central banking law. But there I go again, being picky. Shame on me. I am obviously an incurable non-violent extremist: please, for God’s sake, stop me before I point at the Emperor’s flaccid penis again.
As to the immediate future, I think we can take it as read that the Syriza government will be required to produce yet more fiscal information, and explain more of its reform ideas…thus keeping them too busy to notice that time is dribbling away into the lower half of the egg-timer, and nothing of any use to the Greek citizenry is getting done. Athens will, in turn, continue to suggest daft ideas while trying to fulfill its electoral commitments without Troika2 noticing.
I’m also assuming that in no more than 72 hours, there will be more disagreement about the lack of agreement, and hence the need for a further agreement to have another meeting to see if more time can be wasted in trying to reach another agreement prior to disagreements about the content of that failure to reach an agreement. While all that’s going on, nobody will spot that one head of State with no right so to do is brokering an agreement affecting the whole of the eurozone. If they noticed and thought about it for a few seconds, however, they would quickly reach an agreement that this is indeed the case.
As if to verify the falsehood (so to speak) the France News anchor noted later that “the paymaster of Europe hosted a meeting with its weakest link”. This stereophonic piece of arrant propaganda was greeted with no more than a series of nods by the Woman On the Spot. “Absolutely,” she agreed. After that one, I counted to ten and switched the telly off: without the 1-10 cooling off period, it would’ve been another gardening boot through the TV monitor.