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Economic Crisis: Q & A


Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan


Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, left, speaks with Finance Minister Michael Noonan

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, left, speaks with Finance Minister Michael Noonan



Michael Noonan

Another 'make-or-break' summit and 'D-Day for Greece' that ends without a proper solution. You have got to be kidding?

I'm afraid not. Where Greece is concerned, no cliché is too hackneyed and no outcome cannot be delayed just a little bit more. Despite all the hype, pretty much everybody was saying last night that the real solution was closer than before but still a few days away.

A few days away! Can we believe that?

Depends what you call a solution. The 'solution' will probably involve kicking the can down the road for six months but it is likely to be enough to ensure that everybody in Brussels can get the bucket and spade out of the attic and take August off. 'Extend and pretend', is what the bankers call it.

Have Tspiras and his leftist friends made any concessions?

Yes, but in a cack-handed sort of way which has left everybody fuming and depressed.

The Greeks emailed different versions of their concessions to different people so nobody was too sure yesterday what exactly is on offer. The main concessions are gradually raising the retirement age and reducing the number of early retirements, along with hikes in VAT. In return, they will get some sort of loan for around €18bn.

Beware of Greeks sending emails?

It would be funny all right if it weren't sad. One of the problems the Greeks face is that they simply don't appear to be able to negotiate the Alice in Wonderland world that is the European Commission.

There is a huge inexperience at the top of the Greek government which can be charming but is also dangerous and could still lead to an accident.

What is the most likely accident?

A missed payment to the IMF later this month which could see the first ever default to the IMF in history by a western country. That would almost certainly be followed by some sort of loan from Europe - a troika loan without an IMF component, so to speak.

Doesn't sound like the end of the world...

Not immediately, but it would undoubtedly dent confidence and could even do what the Americans have been quietly warning about for years: force Greece into the arms of the Russians and bring Russian influence inside Nato and the EU and right to the borders of western Europe.

Irish Independent