June 3, 2015
Probably during the next days creditors (and partners) of Greece will reach a final decision on the proposals (fifth amendment so far) of the Greek government. We don’t risk a prediction, but it is certain that all the way since February 2015 we have lived a monumental Greek drama, mainly due to the hasty and unverified reports of media outlets and journalists covering the negotiations outside the meeting rooms in Brussels, Berlin, Washington, and Athens, or just doing propaganda without any sources of information, just though “patchwork”.
These four months were as exhausting -physically and mentally- as never before. But the fact is that the game -i.e. implementation of policy program- is just about to start.
To sum up, here are the ten lessons we have learned from the Brussels Group meetings:
Lesson No. 1: Technicalities from the institutions had many times blocked essential negotiations. With the term “technicality” I mean all these jargon-stuffed reports that were exchanged between the participants, even during small breaks. These reports (and the corrected versions) have truly impeded a faster conclusion of meetings.
Lesson No. 2: Meetings were as boring as a cow’s staring. The time wasted before and during sessions could be invested in less talks and more drafting (or a more productive chit-chat, necessary during the first meetings to get to know each other).
Lesson No. 3: As weeks were passing, net negotiation time was minimized as much as possible. Especially during last meetings, and as participants mostly got to know each other, they resorted to twitter-dawdling.
Lesson No. 4: IMF and ECB representatives were insisting on Greece’s withdrawal of “red lines”, especially before Riga’s Eurogroup. There were many times that the Greek delegation was ready to postpone meetings.
Lesson No. 5: The Greek delegation was many times fiercely repeating the fact that SYRIZA government was elected to protect low-income pensioners and employees and to avoid further austerity measures. During negotiations, proposals on income tax increases could only be discussed if weakest parts of the population were left intact.
Lesson No. 6: Surprisingly enough, Russia and the developments on Greek-Russian relations after PM Tsipras meeting with President Putin were more discussed than capital flights bustling reports dispatched by Greece’s Central Bank governor.
Lesson No. 7: Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Alternate Foreign Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos were many times praised by EC and IMF representatives for their consistent work during the negotiations in Eurogroups.
Lesson No. 8: Representatives from institutions were always informed on opinion polls in Greece and the growing appeal SYRIZA.
Lesson No. 9: During the last meetings of technical staffs, Greece’s fiscal proposals were discussed thoroughly, with representatives insisting on increasing the highest tax of 23% (i.e. around 27%).
Lesson No. 10: “Take it or leave it” proposal was never put in the table on any of the debating issues. Whenever deadlock appeared, sessions were stopped and retrieved after a short break.
Conclusion: The Brussels Group was not finally that effective. Political negotiations instead of technical negotiations could definitely be a pushing factor for all parts involved.
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Twitter: @rapidisDimitris Rapidis