Shane Ross: Look out for our Greek pals
Published 18/09/2011 | 08:56
DO you feel a twinge of sympathy for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou?
Was poor George handbagged by Angela Merkel and savaged by Nicolas Sarkozy during that three-way telephone call on Wednesday? George is emerging as the enfant terrible of Europe, the guy who swears undying loyalty to reform... until he escapes from the room . Then he heads back to Athens and goes native again. The latest Greek wheeze — the promise to impose a property tax to plug a sudden €2bn hole — has comical characteristics. George has decided to collect it through the citizens' electricity bills! Greeks have a bit of a difficulty with tax collection.
The tax anarchy in Greece is far from a minus in George's armoury. Last week he emerged as a clear winner in the scrap on the blower with Angela and Nicolas. While George must have privately pleaded that Greeks were not amenable to tax collection, such a danger is a useful weapon in his hands. The other two players had reason to be scared of George. If the Greek premier pulls the pin on the sovereign debt grenade, Angela may be forced to mop up the devastation. If Greek banks go belly-up, Nicolas will be next in the firing line.