Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Austrian Chancellor Faymann, A Lame Duck At Home, Steps Into The Greek Limelight!

Chancellor Werner Faymann will today be the first foreign head of government to visit Athens since Alexis Tsipras became Prime Minister. To me, Faymann is arguably the weakest Chancellor Austria has had since 1945; he cannot even manage his own party successfully, much less the entire country. So why even pay attention when such a political lightweight visits Athens?

As little sympathy as I have for Faymann as a political leader, regarding Greece he has made a lot of sensible comments. If I understand his logic correctly, he is saying what I had formulated as follows very early in the blog: "The only way to draw water from a dried-out well is to first dump the water into the well. That does not seem to make sense. The smarter way would be to fix the well."

Faymann has been making some very sensible comments lately. He criticizes the Greek government where such criticism is due but, as the saying in German goes: "It's the sound which makes the music". Faymann has chosen good sound. When asked of his opinion about Tsipras' accusing the IMF of criminal actions, his response was: "If one aims at a positive result out of negotiations, it is never useful to bad-mouth the other side". About the Greek government he said: "I start from the premise that someone who was voted into power will live up to his responsibilities".

Faymann has expressed - correctly, in my opinion - sympathies for the Greek government's rejecting 'some' of the demands by the Institutions. "The Greek people must not be overcharged!" He emphasized that ALL must pay their taxes and not only in small percentages. The state of law and institutional reliability must be improved. If the focus is put on those things, Faymann is certain, then the creditors will show more understanding for the poverty of many Greeks.

Faymann says that he has coordinated his visit with Jean-Claude Juncker and several EU heads of government. He expressed full support for the principle that agreements must be '100% respected'. However, he is concerned that the more one talks about a possible Grexit, the more one gets used to the idea of its happening. "One of the reasons I go to Athens is to emphasize that we are not interested in a Grexit".

"Greece needs a long-term plan in order to assure investors that the country will continue to remain a member of the EU", says Faymann. I couldn't agree more.


  1. Faymann's visit is to understand what Tsipras think.
    This might perceived from Tsipras as another chance to show his stable views, but the way of bargaining is problematic, if i understand correctly european patience not only German.

    The issue: Greek proposals have issues with collectability.

    The revenues from e gaming are probably more from gross revenues for 2016,(for 2015 gross revenues are about 250 mil €), audits for bank acccounts not related with current revenues, VAT fraud 700 mil € for 2016, unisured vehicles also are too optimistic evaluations.
    Fees and licences for TV channels are 340 mil € when it would be a miracle to find 100 € as most companies have negative operating revenues.

    Even the 12% tax for companies revenues above 1 mil € are unclear:
    The operating profits are 13.7 bn € but also included the profits of banks like Piraeus (negative goodwill, you know) !

    For the same companies (1135+269) the increase from 26 to 29% tax would bring 450 mil €.
    But if the 3% is 450 mil €, the 100% would be 15 bn €.
    But previous calculation is based on 13.7 bn € !
    (There is not a mention for the profits for companies 0-100.000).

    This is in greek but you can find some tables in pages 19,20,24

    Why europeans do not start a very detailed presentation for these issues?
    The anticipated revenues are based on credible data?

    This must be done in public.

    Please, do not post my comment, only comment if you like.

  2. Faymann was a good choice of peacemaker. I can't think of another european PM, that would come to Greece and appear half-credible. The usual suspect is Juncker, but how could Juncker come, when a few days ago he wouldn't speak to Tsipras on phone and just yesterday called him a liar? Spain, Portugal hope Tsipras to burn, so that they will have easier electoral campaigns. Italian PM would be the only candidate, if it wasn't for an ironical comment he made yesterday about Tsipras' electoral promices. Faymann, being of low profile, was the best man for peacemaker role. And unlike the usual tour to the Acropolis - pat on the back, before i ask you to make cuts - routine, he made an original visit to a hospital.

    On the german side of the border, the drums of war in the press were harder, with the apex being Martin Schultz warning that Greece would not only leave the euro, but also the EU.

    At this point, when one sees Schultz go so far, one can be more optimistic than ever that there will be an agreement. Contrary to you, Mr. Kastner, politicians have to think about their clientelle. And what better end, than to have Tsipras signing a compromise, after a "fight to the end", where he can say "i resisted until the last minute" and in Germany for Schauble to say "we didn't just give carte blanche to that arrogant little blackmailer! We made him sweat and we made him sign!".

    Without wanting to diminish the european capability of making blunders or drowning in a spoon of water, it is a wonderful theatrical scene for political gains on all parties. I have no doubt that many in SYRIZA are fanatics enough to want to go to the drachma, just so that they have free reign to do whatever the please, but i don't think Tsipras will do it if he has a deal he can serve as victory. And no matter how hard other PMs want to strangle Tsipras with a tie, i doubt they will prefer to lose large sums of money, set a legal precedent of how to leave euro and open a geopolitical hole in SE Balkans. Not that the european slowness and individual interests aren't capable of it, but, at the end "c'est l' argent qui fait la guerre"... So, the Americans phoned Tsipras and sent envoyee to Athens and Juncker is preparing new proposal.