THE VARIOUS newspaper accounts of the Greek euro crisis reveal less about what is happening in Athens, and more about what is happening in newsrooms.
Cheerful denial from RACHEL DONADIO at The New York Times – ‘Global financial markets received a reprieve on Thursday after Greek political leaders agreed to sweeping new austerity measures that should unlock the financing Greece needs to avert a potentially damaging default in March.’
Grim concern from GEOFFREY T. SMITH et al. at The Wall Street Journal – ‘As the focus of the discussions shifted to Brussels, officials indicated patience with Athens was wearing thin.
“What’s important in Athens isn’t important for everyone else,” a European government official told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that “there is a list of 10 to 15 questions” about the Athens political deal announced Thursday that need answering.
These include clarity on specific measures Greece would take to bridge the EUR300 million fiscal gap in 2012.
Another euro-zone official said talks are still “dominated by mistrust towards Greece” and several ministers have made it clear they want to see what parliamentary backing the coalition government can muster for new measures before giving a green light for the package.
Clear-eyed vision from JEREMY WARNER at The Daily Telegraph – There is only one way of interpreting the set of fresh demands tabled by eurozone finance ministers last night in return for agreeing a new €130bn bailout for Greece – that they are now quite deliberately trying to push Greece out of the euro. All pretence at European solidarity has been abandoned, to be replaced by the vengeance of Shylock.
Mind you, it’s easy enough to see why their patience has been broken. The Greeks keep promising, but have consistently failed to deliver. Today, their promises are more worthless than ever, as popular support for the political parties which are signing up to them has collapsed.
The way things are going, they’ll all be out at the next election, to be replaced by a ragbag of populist politicians unbound by whatever the present lot have signed up to.
Street-level reality from HELENA SMITH at The Guardian– Minutes after the government triumphantly sealed the deal, deputy labour minister Yannis Koutsoukos resigned. He blasted the belt-tightening reforms Athens had accepted in return for €130bn in rescue loans as being not only painful but “anti-constitutional” and in violation of international law.
Ignoring counter-proposals and the argument that further austerity will deepen Greece’s already severe recession, foreign lenders, he said, had blackmailed officials into accepting the accord. On the other side of the political spectrum, Yiannis Manolis, a senior unionist in the conservative New Democracy party, also resigned, saying policies that included a 22% cut in the minimum wage would ensure that Greeks were reduced to living on “Bulgarian salaries in a country with Brussels prices”. Aleka Papariga, the communist party leader, warned of “all-out war”. After two years of being subjected to relentless tax rises, wage and pension cuts, the prospect of state entities being closed, with mass sackings, loss of benefits and even lower wages would prove the tipping point for Greeks. “They want us to live in Dachau, in concentration camp conditions,” she said.