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Me myself, George, Merkel and Sarkozy

02 December 2013 / 23:12:21  GRReporter
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The book by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero "El dilema. 600 dias de vertigo" ("The Dilemma: 600 Days of Vertigo") gently lifts the curtain of the European meetings and summits, allowing its readers to look behind the scenes.

The book reveals some of the processes that happened in the critical period from the end of 2009, when George Papandreou’s government had dramatically put the Greek issue in the spotlight, to November 2011, and during the turbulent G20 summit in Cannes, which was followed by government turmoil in Greece and Italy.

As one could see, the author is particularly concerned about the Greek issue. The word "Greece" repeatedly appears in the titles and subtitles of the chapters and, in total, 160 times in the book. It is significant that "France" and "Germany" appear 42 and 76 times respectively.

Spain’s former socialist Prime Minister always speaks with respect for George Papandreou and avoids directly criticizing him.

Jose Luis Zapatero demonstrated such a position of sympathy and understanding in Cannes in November 2011, when the whole world criticized Papandreou who was losing his positions in Greece at that time as well.

In the chapter entitled "DE NUEVO Grecia ... Y AHORA ITALIA?" (Greece again ... and now Italy?") Zapatero writes the following:

"We arrived in Cannes shocked by the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou’s initiative to hold a referendum on the unstable Eurogroup agreement of 26 October. This agreement provided for new cuts in Greece, for the 50% involvement of private banks in its rescue and for the increase of the amount of the European Financial Stability Facility to 1 trillion euro. (...)

The idea of ​​the referendum came as a thunderbolt to the euro zone governments and Brussels. The following days were particularly restless. It seemed that the pitcher would go to the well and that the euro would explode.

Thoughts were automatically put together. If the referendum were held its result would probably have been negative. In this case, no financial support would have been granted and the probability of default would have been inevitable. Moreover, its implications would have been unpredictable, one of them being a possible shock and massive spreading of the effect to the weaker euro zone countries."

"I indicated the risks to him"

In those days, I repeatedly spoke with Papandreou, in person, about his initiative. I indicated to him, with all the due respect that I feel for him, the considerable risks accompanying his surprising proposal. It was not easy to tell Papandreou something that would sound like a reproach.

Always reticent in the days before he resigned, he was telling me how isolated he was feeling because of the financial and social situation in his country. The government was facing increasing difficulties in parliament, after so many plans for consolidation and cuts in public spending, and the economy and employment were getting worse. At the same time, the Troika was becoming more persistent. "I cannot stand any longer", he told me... I understood him and stopped raising the issue of the referendum."

In the very first pages of his book, Zapatero explains how the Greek issue had become the central problem of the world economy. He describes the atmosphere of calm and restrained optimism reigning in Europe that was rapidly torn to pieces during the European meeting in December 2009.

"Then during the summit the newly elected Prime Minister of Greece began to read a detailed and transparent report on the state of the Greek economy and on the public finances in particular.

The report was shocking, gloomy. After bluntly presenting the dynamics of the deficit and public debt, Papandreou described a number of peculiarities of the Greek public administration. I do not want to mention the details of the things described by the Greek Prime Minister in relation to the pensions, bonuses for civil servants or the difficulties of determining the state property, out of respect for him and for his country, which experienced so much pain during the crisis.
George Papandreou won the confidence of the council due to his seriousness and sincerity, and his detailed description of the situation had not left European leaders indifferent. The faces of a number of heads of state and prime ministers showed their surprise and some showed sympathy for the Greek Prime Minister."
The fuss in the following weeks was unprecedented and the events took place at breakneck speed. In January, Zapatero spoke with Papandreou many times. "He shared his dissatisfaction with the actions of some European countries. At that time, George Papandreou claimed with some pride that his country could cope alone with the situation and the more responses by the European partners he saw, the more he was convinced that he should not ask for any help."

Tags: Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez ZapateroBookGreek crisisGeorge Papandreou
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