Opinion

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Greeks may talk big, but they have no stick

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) look discontent as they address a news conference following talks at the finance ministry in Berlin yesterday (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) look discontent as they address a news conference following talks at the finance ministry in Berlin yesterday (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) clash as they address a news conference following talks at the finance ministry in Berlin February 5 (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
After yesterday's meeting between finance minister Yanos Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaueble, Mr Varoufakis declined even to endorse the description that they had "agreed to disagree" (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan

Speak softly and carry a big stick, they say. The new Greek government has instead been making a lot of noise, but the truth is it carries no stick worth talking about.

It does have a mandate from the Greek electorate and, many would say, a strong moral position, not least from Germany's own history on debt default and forgiveness. But none of that constitutes a weapon in what has turned out to be a grim diplomatic battle.

Battle has been joined much more quickly than expected. The decision by the European Central Bank to remove the concessions it had made on lending to Greek banks turned what was a fierce argument into a full-blown crisis.

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