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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where does the EU stand on the Lagarde list?

Some time ago, I posted an article titled "Much ado about a list". I still stand by its content. I thought at the time that I would never again spend time on this issue. Recent developments have changed my mind.

Objectively, this list is 'peanuts'. If I recall correctly, the total sum involved was about 2-3 BEUR. However, it seems that this list has assumed an entirely different connotation than one could originally suspect. Suddenly, it appears that this list might be the key for unlocking the door for much greater corruption schemes having gone on in Greece in recent years (Siemens & Co.). And it has become the prototype example of how the Greek political elite deals with such issues.

What role does the EU play in all of this? Deafening silence! Should the EU play a role? Based on previous precedents, yes it should!

In early 2000, two democratically elected parties of Austria, which together represented an absolute majority in parliament, decided to form a coalition government. As it happened, the EU did not like one of the two parties. The EU thought that this party did not meet the high common values which the EU shared. For a while, it looked like the EU would proceed with a process aiming at expelling Austria from the EU. After long negotiations, the EU could be satisfied that a 3-person team of 'wise men' should visit Austria and pass judgement whether Austria could still be regarded as a civilized country. The 'wise men' passed positive judgement.

Having said this, what seems to be going on in Greece's 'triangle of power' (politicians, media, oligarchs) does not come as a surprise to anyone. The debates/votes around the Lagarde list have only highlighted this situation. It is certainly an unacceptable situation; a situation which can under no circumstances be reconciled with EU values. Finally, a situation which makes the common man and woman of Greece the fools; the fools who have no choice but to pay for the corruption of the mighty.

In my opinion, if the EU is worth any salt at all, it should involve itself in this issue. Yes, it is a domestic issue in Greece and the EU has no business in meddling with domestic issues. However, it has become much more than a domestic issue. It has become a question of who stands up and lets himself be counted to support those Greeks who desperately need support.

I think that if the EU decided to send three 'wise men' to Greece to examine how power is exercised there, taking the Lagarde list as a first case in point, a very large part of the Greek population would develop new sympathies for the EU.

So, where does the EU stand on the Lagarde list???

11 comments:

  1. Even in The Guardian, yesterday (I found later there at least some sentences for where I was searching for, even the "elephant" was there b.t.w., so finally I understood the comment some days ago) "they" did not add any comment other than that "you and all will have questions".
    Yes, we have questions.
    But where to go and ask?

    A question I heard here in the house today: "What is there, hidden, that holds back all developments, steps, decisions, acts, progress, new developments, why does it take so incredible disgusting much time?"

    Who is behind that?
    Is that the elephant?
    The state itself?

    Lagarde has an own list, of course she knows. Why does SHE wait with talking?
    Is this trying to be polite?
    She can be very direct however.
    Not taking any consideration about how the Greeks think about her.
    But of course it must be too delicate.

    I have often thought about "your" glass, filled with 70% / 30% (as an example, in a post some days ago)
    About the 1000 Greeks, good ones, in another post about your former professor.
    But is it possible that 2000 Greeks rule the millions of Greeks who are NOT on the list? Money is power.
    I even started to suspend Samaras. He is the leader of a rich party.
    Who is behind the media?
    Who is ruling Greece?
    Does Yanis Varoufakis know?
    The Global Minotaur might be a Greek maybe? Or is it USA who is really interested in Greece as THE most powerful state of the future? Or is it Russia? China?
    Or is Syriza the subversive element, not even blinking with the eyes when there are questions about strange bottles in spooky buildings, awakening suspicion?
    I do not trust anybody.
    How to solve it?
    How can this be controlled?
    The Troyan horse is in Greece, but how does it look today? We feel it. Everybody feels it, but not any word is there to say what it is. That is why it IS a Troyan Horse.

    The Greek here in the house would like to send an "army" of Europeans who have the right charisma and knowledge to solve the Greek problems. Somebody who can stop them all talking and demanding to listen. With the fist on the table.
    He is desperate, sick of all the empty discussions, debates. Nobody speaks a language that is clear, after many hours nothing is clear, they do NOT know where they are talking about. Like the sotry about the Tower of Babel.

    Something must happen.
    But you have opened at least a discussion about that silence.

    Thank you for that.

    I found a very beautiful song: composed by Zbigniew Preisner
    Song for the unification of Europe

    The text is from 1 Corinthians 13
    It is sung in Greek.

    And something nice to sing (Greek song)
    "ΔΙΠΛΑΝΟ ΤΡΑΠΕΖΙ ...."


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  2. Dear Mr Kleingut,

    I often agree with what you write, but not in this case. Sorry, but what on earth should three "wise men" from the EU find out in Greece on this matter? "How power is exercised there", as you write? It seems to me that by now it is sufficiently clear to everybody how power is exercised in Greece.
    Or do you think that the EU stands a chance of finding out what happened to the Lagarde list during the more than two years that it is in Greece? That is not the task of the EU, it must be done (and can only be done) by the Greeks themselves. If the Greek government is unable or unwilling to clear up this matter, I doubt that the EU will be able to do it.
    It seems to me that the EU is not a sort of supernanny who can fight corruption and tax evasion in Greece, the Mafia in Italy, real estate speculation in Spain and lax banking supervision in Ireland. Each country must be responsible itself for keeping its house in order, otherwise Europe will never function as a community.
    I am afraid the only way to get Greek politicians to make serious progress on tax evasion would be to tell them that if they don't, the EU will stop coming up with more money. Sooner or later, tax payers in other European countries will lose patience.
    By the way, as I have learned these days, the Greek inactivity on the Lagarde list is not the only scandal of this sort. As one can read in the last paragraph of a recent Economist article
    (http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2013/01/greek-politics-0)there are more such lists.

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    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymus,

      Who is right or not, what EU could do or not, it is indeed up to Greece to publish THE list of lists.
      You must admit however that it has taken too much precious time to arrive to the final day, today, that FINALLY the sword of justice has decided to demand to open the list.
      WHY did they wait so long?
      There are 300 politicians to be payed for being in the government. They could have used their precious time so much better if there would have been somebody who would have done what JUSTICE finally orders to do.

      So this day, January 20, 2013, is a glorious day. Finally JUSTICE starts talking.

      Kind regards,

      Antoinette, always Fond of Greek Music , Nature and Art.

      Fond of Greek Justice today also.

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    2. Anonymus

      I must agree that, offhand, I find it difficult to define exactly what such 'wise men' should do. That could be worked out, however, if it were also the wish of the Greek leadership to straigthen out the mess.

      My point was/is: if you have a mess within your entity, be that a company or a country, and if that has led to complete mistrust on the part of the members of that entity, you need to get some external and neutral people involved. When there is a big scandal in a company, the company's board will commission outside auditors, etc.

      When you have a corrupt situation like in Greece where apparently corruption has permeated society like a cancer, and where everyone points to the 'triangle of corruption', it's very difficult to imagine that that mess can be cleaned out from within because that would require the beneficiaries of the mess to agree to self-amputation.

      So I really don't think it's feasible to imagine the EU sending the cavalry to Greece but I do think that the EU (and the Troika, for that matter) could do a lot which it hasn't been doing so far. By not doing anything, the feeling on the part of Greeks is justified that the EU is de facto supporting the corrupt elite.

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    3. Its more than a triangle - you forgot the Public Service, the Judiciary, the Labour Unions and the Professions - so it's at least a heptagon ;)

      I thought the 3 wise men from Brussels went to Vienna... to get rid of the party that said it wanted to put an end to corruption... not to get rid of corruption itself. I even wonder if the EU wise men went to Austria to protect its cosy capitalist system...

      An army of wise persons from the Troika, the TFGR, foreign governments, and a boatload of EU institutions, crawl all over Greece every day of the week. How many more will it take...

      If the EU really wanted to 'sort Greece out", it would need something similar Eulex for Kosovo which has a UN Security Council resolution to give it legitimacy. Would the Greeks accept something similar - I'd be surprised if they would.

      I can't think of any instance of a comprehensive externally imposed national transformation that did not involve war, total defeat, and prolonged period of occupation. Last time we did that was almost 70 years ago, and the boots are still on the ground.

      Interesting, the Eulex site says it employs 2,250 people... yet it has no vacancies... Hmmmm.

      As well as a program of economic adjustment, Greece probably needs major constitutional reform. First step would be to take power away from the current centralised unicameral parliament; which is what you'd choose if you wanted an incubator for corruption. Second adopt a federal system with 13 regional governments and a national government with a smaller lower house and an upper house with equal representation from each region... and an Anti Corruption agency, maybe similar to Hong Kong's ICAC.

      CK

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    4. @kleingut "By not doing anything, the feeling on the part of Greeks is justified that the EU is de facto supporting the corrupt elite."

      Wise.

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    5. Dear Mr Kleingut,

      I agree that in a situation where corruption is so widespread the help of outside editors could make a difference. I am afraid, though, that the "wish of the Greek leadership to straighten out the mess", as you have put it, is not really there. And without a serious backing from the leadership I suppose such a mission would be very difficult.
      Can anything be done against the impression that the EU is de facto supporting the corrupt elite? Maybe the EU could press more strongly - and more openly, not just behind the scenes - for more decisive action against tax fraud. One might perhaps hope that the Greek public opinion would welcome that and not see it as an intrusion into internal affairs.
      ,

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    6. Anonymous

      Perhaps one example of what I mean. The Lagarde list. We don't know whether Lagarde gave this list to Papakonstaninou in a confidential one-on-one, or whether perhaps the entire Eurogroup under Juncker knew of that. Either way --- why could Lagarde, after 3 months of inaction on the Greek side, not have told Papakonstaninou something like 'look, if there is no visible action on this, I am going to go public on it'. Now, Lagarde did do something which made her very unpopular in Greece; she called Greeks tax cheaters. Maybe she thought that that was the right signal but in actual fact it was probably the worst signal of all because no one knew why she might have said that.

      Why could Lagarde not have made this an issue within the Eurogroup and why could the Eurogroup not have gone public on this? Not to blackmail their Greek friends in government (but still to exercize pressure). Instead, to show the Greek people that they are totally upset about the same things which the Greek people are upset about?

      Now to Alexis Tsipras. There are quite a few things which he says which make eminent sense when taken for face value. Particularly his attacks on the corruption, on the unfair tax system, on the unwillingness to process tax cheaters, etc. etc. I emphasize 'face value' because I am not sure at all that he would be so much different if he were in power (the Austrian experience with Jörg Haider and his party would suggest that even the most self-proclaimed Robin Hoods can quickly turn around and enjoy the spoils of power once in power). But why couldn't someone express support for the 'face value' of Tsipras' good ideas and give Greeks the impression that they don't necessarily have to vote for Tsipras as the last hope for change and betterment?

      Some EU-politicians (Merkel included) have made statements in passing that the wealthy class of Greece has transferred its wealth abroad. Excuse me? A statement in passing? If you belonged to that wealthy class, would you get scared by a statement in passing? What if, instead, there would have been total uproar about this? The troika sees that prices don't come down as much as they should, given the austerity measures. They must know what I have learned from commentators that this is due to monopolies, cartels, etc. I always ask myself: why do I hear this from Greeks and not from those who allegedly have an interest in changing that?

      Yes, there is this fine borderline with the question of intervening in domestic affairs. But many EU-politicians had no problem with that borderline when it came to scaring Greeks out of voting for SYRIZA!?! Why only make Tsipras the pariah? Why not also make those Pariah's who should be and who are the part of the reason why Tsipras gets so much support?

      I could go on and on, but I will now leave it here.

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  3. How do we know that the EU (Commission and/or Council), the Eurogroup, and/or Christine Legarde have not raised the matter with successive Greek Prime Ministers and Ministers of Finance in their private conversations and closed door meetings.

    As the Much Ado... post alludes. the 'list' is stolen property. if the EU Elites publicly address the issue in the manner suggested they will be openly admitting that Legarde is a distributor of stolen property. Like it or not that's not the way diplomacy works - not just in Europe, everywhere. If that wasn't so then there would be no rationale for Wikileaks, or investigative journalists.

    The TFGR has two programs under which it could raise the issue - Tax Administration and Public Administration - Political Impetus, Supervision and Ownership. How do we know that they haven't done so, in a responsible, discreet manner.

    The likes of Olli Rehn, Jörg Asmussen are far too smart to get involved in a Greek political dog-fight. And I'm sure Legarde often regrets giving the list to the Greeks.
    ===================

    kleingut writes But many EU-politicians had no problem with that borderline when it came to scaring Greeks out of voting for SYRIZA!

    Yet SYRIZA increased its popular vote from 4.60% in Oct 2009, to 16.78% in May 2012 to 26.89% in June 2012 - just 2.77% (7 seats) short of the grabbing the 50 bonus seats.

    To my mind these results indicate that more than a few Greeks don't scare easily, or they act defiantly, or they don't listen to foreign politicians - or all of the above. In another context this would be called - Blowback.

    Like most nationalities, Greeks know what their failings are. And like most nationalities Greeks resent foreigners telling them about their failings. Americans on gun control, and Japanese on whaling and war crimes, are a couple of examples that spring to mind.

    I was recently reading about the 1989 Greek elections in the NYT archives. It's amazing how little has changed since - same basic issues, same basic culture, even some of the same names. I reckon I could go back another few decades and find more deja vu.

    CK

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    1. @CK: "......Lagarde often regrets giving the list to the Greeks."

      Lagarde, smart as she is, will have a copy. At least >I< would have made a copy and I am not even 1% as smart as Lagarde. By giving the original list to the Greeks she has been able to watch what they do with it. How they expose themselves in the media. That is so bad that Samaras said that he hoped that nobody was watching. All the side effects of the "stick" is also very important information, for all watchers. Isn't it?


      @kleingut: "Why not also make those Pariah's who should be and who are the part of the reason why Tsipras gets so much support?"
      Who do you exactly mean?
      The biggest pariah ever in Greece is Georgos Papandreou. Not for me, however, but: the Greeks made him a pariah. Why? Because he opened the Pandora box. HE is NOT the dirt that came out. He only opened the door. What came out? All we have witnessed after October 2011. The media still ridicule him.

      ALL others have already been, ARE a pariah. The only holy one who is left is Tsipras.
      For too many Greeks.
      How is it possible to take him serious now he is going to USA, to the capitalist country, what can a leftist do there? Even Theodorakis, the one who supported him in the beginning, HATES all what even sounds American.
      Did we hear something reasonable about his earlier journeys abroad?
      HOW can I take the man serious?
      HE has created his own statue as the pariah of all who think with common sense. As what I understand as common sense.
      I have the idea that you still do not see that what is blamed to the government constantly, by all, including Tsipras, all who are watching Greece, is in fact something what is deep inside all Greek systems, also in the private ones, behind each front door, in each Greek.
      Something has grown into the minds of this people decades ago, maybe even earlier. The biggest enemy of the Greeks is in their mind, their psyche, and cannot be beaten, it is the result of unhealthy patterns and a self-defeating lifestyle. This is the reality. Tsipras makes all who live in that dream, sleeping, not willing to wake up for the reality, believe, that he is the man who can continue their dream. This is impossible. But if he wants and the Greeks want him: let it happen. Do it what you believe you can.
      Then this is the only way to learn: by own experience.

      Tsipras has not any political experience, not in world politics, doesn not even speak English!
      He is, as too many Greeks, blind for the own mistakes, and he shows day after day that he is just a student on the university of real life politics. Maybe there is a politician hidden in him, but an oak-nut is not already the oak in its full growth. Greece is in a too bad weather to give him the right circumstances to grow in a healthy way: an oak takes much time to grow and Greece itself needs an oak, a strong leader.


      But this is again just a comment of a simple but enthousiastic follower of your eminent blog.

      Mostly agreeing and but always nourished in thinking, even in the case "Tsipras". Though you cannot convince me, I like it to debate.





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    2. In this CNN Interview with Christiane Ananpour, Tsipras answers in (IMO adequate) English Austerity will send us 'directly to the hell'

      But in his recent AJ interview and in his Brookings Institute speech he speaks Greek. Did he forget English, or was he advised to forget it. If the latter, then I think he was ill-advised.

      Here's Tsipras at the Brookings Institute

      Christine Lagarde gave some straight answers (IMO) regarding 'her list' in the Jan 21 interview with Kathimerini - I can't post a link because the eKathi site appears to be having problems, again.

      CK

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