Ten questions on Greece & SYRIZA, with ten answers – Q&A with Jorge N. Rodrigues

greece13 image(For the Portuguese language version of this interview, click here. Otherwise read on…)


  1. Why had the Eurogroup decided last week to grant a two-month bailout extension until February? This was a political signal for Greeks?

Officially, it was not political but a ‘realistic’ solution since it offers enough time for the “evaluation of Greece’s progress” to be completed but does not extend the ‘agony’ longer than it must. In reality, however, it was a clear message that Berlin is not interested in dealing with Mr Samaras until and unless either he elects a President in this Parliament (in which case a general election is averted) or he wins a general election (following his failure to elect a President in this Parliament). The two months expire precisely when a new government, led by Mr Samaras, or Mr Tsipras is in power. Clearly, Mrs Merkel thinks that Greece’s next agreement requires a freshly elected, or a revived, government. Deep down, the German government knows that it must now lock horns with Mr Tsipras’ SYRIZA. It is quote simple really.

  1. Why Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called, in a surprising move, early presidential elections for December 17?

It is my view that Mr Samaras has been betrayed by Berlin and Frankfurt. He has been promising Greek voters a “clean exit from the bailouts” by the end of December. I refuse to believe that he made this up – and I trust he only made that promise because he was promised such a “clean exit”. In this context, his strategy was to wait until February, when the “clean exit” would be announced with considerable fanfare, and then call an election putting voters in front of a dilemma: A vote for me is a vote for an immediate exit from the bailout nightmare. A vote for SYRIZA is a vote for conflict with the EU that will result in Grexit and chaos. Me or the deluge.

Alas, Berlin’s promise to allow him to claim that he bailout had been exited cleanly was withdrawn a couple of weeks ago. Mr Samaras felt betrayed and his own media and MPs turned against him. He had a stark choice: Wait this thing out, with daily loss of control over his own government, until a Presidential election in Parliament in February, which he would lose thus being forced into an unwinnable election? Or go for it now, in a last ditch attempt to terrorise voters into voting for him rather than for SYRIZA? He opted for the latter.

  1. Did Samaras have other options, or he is completely sandwiched between troika and Opposition and this move was desperate?

His move was desperate because he never considered his one alternative option – the one that resonates with the truth about Greece’s economy and with regard to the Eurozone crisis: the option of telling Germany and Brussels that enough is enough. That the grand lie must end that Greece is on the way to recovery and will escape its bankruptcy if only a few more reforms and a little more austerity are applied.

  1. The probability of snap parliamentary elections in January is high, or there’s a probability for government parties to cobble a final majority of 180 votes to elect Stavros Dimas?

Politically speaking, there is next to no chance that Mr Dimas will secure the 180 votes he needs in the third ballot. Then again, there are other factors. All, or most, of the independents, and some MPs from DIMAR and ANEL (two small opposition parties) stand no chance of re-election. They thus have a vested interest in voting for Mr Dimas so as to prolong their parliamentary career (and assorted ‘benefits’) for a year or so longer. They are Mr Samaras’ only hope.

  1. A major crash of two digits at Athens stock Exchange and contagion in the sovereign bonds Euro zone market yesterday are early signals of financial panic from the investor community?

Yes. Those who had assumed that Mr Samaras was going to be allowed by Mrs Merkel a “clean exit” strategy prior to the Presidential election were dumbfounded. Of course, the smart money had already ‘abandoned ship’ in October…

  1. Can we expect 10-15% yields for Greek bonds and 1000 basis points for CDS and a contagion in the peripheral economies like Portugal, Italy and Spain, from this new Greek crisis?

Greek bond yields and Greece’s stock exchange index do not matter while a new agreement is being negotiated between Greece and the EU. If you are not borrowing, it really does not matter what interest rates are! And, as far as the stock exchange is concerned, we should be interested in prices that reflect the underlying, true values – rather than the bubbles created by governments and the ECB. So, Greece’s priority must be the re-negotiation of its agreement with the EU, accepting in the meantime tumult in the money markets as the price we need to pay for escaping from the ‘extend and pretend’ phase to a phase of genuine stabilization and growth. If this also means that, during our negotiations, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian yields rise, so much the better. For it may mean that Lisbon, Madrid and Rome will be forced to participate creatively in this negotiation, forming a Peripheral front, so as to forge a new Eurozone architecture that stops the asphyxiation of proud nations in the name of inane, unenforceable, misanthropic rules.

  1. Do you think a stable government can emerge from snap elections to conclude the bailout and negotiate the follow up?

Yes, I believe so. Democracy has its ways and should respect the will of the voters. They are, after all, the final arbiters. Not the ECB. Not me. Not you.

  1. A potential Syriza-led government will reject the suggested ESM precautionary credit line?

SYRIZA should reject even one euro of fresh loans until and unless Greece’s public and private sectors are renders solvent again. Greece’s (and Portugal’s) tragedy is not that we were lent too little. It was that we were lent too much in order to throw it into a black hole.

  1. In what sense Syriza can compromise with Brussels and the ECB to avoid market volatility and risk of default?

In a variety of ways! However, SYRIZA will, and ought not, compromise on one thing: Striking a new agreement that lifts the veil of depression over its social economy, over innocent people that are suffering indignity for no reason at all.

  1. In 2015 do you expect Greece to exit the Euro, or a political change inside the Eurozone?

It would be a disaster if Greece were to be forced out of the euro. For Greece and for the euro, and Europe at large. There is no need for that. If the Eurozone cannot survive intact the democratic election of a government that seeks to put an end to its people’s suffering, it is doubtful whether a United Europe is still possible.



  • The only bargaining position I see in SYRIZA is that they don´t have their hands dirty like ND and PASOK. Thus, if they untie the rope of the Greek judicial system and put some corrupt individuals behind bars, then perhaps the Troika (having to admit that some the debt is odious) can be more lenient towards Greece.

    Although on the other hand, I am having second thoughts about this. There seem to be more and more indications that SYRIZA is actually in line with the current government and don´t really have the apatite to make any serious changes in the Greek political sphere.

    • Sotis,

      I am in Australia and from what I am reading i couldn’t agree with you more. More recently the dialogue coming from SYRIZA seems to be more in line with the traditional parties. The desire for real change and radical reform seems to have dissipated somewhat.
      I hope this is a campaign tactic and not a sign of things to come should they be elected.

    • Sot is,
      I am in Australia and from what I am reading i couldn’t agree with you more. More recently the dialogue coming from SYRIZA seems to be more in line with the traditional parties. The desire for real change and radical reform seems to have dissipated somewhat.
      I hope this is a campaign tactic and not a sign of things to come should they be elected.

  • I know that absense of proof is not proof of absense, but your non negative answer to question #10 can be interpreted as “Yes, I expect a Grexit, which by the way will be a disaster, because a United Europe is not possible.” Is that the wrong interpretation? If so why? If not, why not say it like this?


  • Dear Yannis,

    I respect your opinion more than any other analyst. I believe that you have the most crystal view of those speaking about Greek and Euro crisis. But I disagree in one thing. Υou keep underestimating the responsibilities of greek politics that resulted in this chaos. I partly understand that the reasons behind this attitude is to feature that a systemic reform is needed, rather than scattered solutions. On the other hand, the avoidance of talking about our own blame, as is the path that among others opposition SYRIZA follows, will never lead to our people’s redemption. It is said that greek politicians acted on behalf of theiselves, but actually they were elected and represented Greek people. Public opinion is split into two segments : the ones that blame troika and misanthropic Merkel for what is happening to them and the ones that blame theirselves, public segments and so on. Why things in Greece should always be black or white? For me the truth is somewhere in the middle, and I have this small complaint from you, that you contribute to the formation of this distorted opinion among greek people.

    • I try not to do this. I always make the point that Greece is replete with malignancies that drive sane people mad. That these malignancies were responsible for the fact that we were the first domino to fall. However, we were not responsible for the whole domino effect and, moreover, the Bailout Agreement not only did not bail us out but, worse, it undermined our efforts to reform and to deal with our malignancies. (I do not believe I have even given a talk on the Greek situation – and I have given many – in which I did not make these points. So, we are in agreement!

    • Let’s get something clear. The current situation is Greece has nothing to do with plutocracy and everything to do with German expansionism in the geopolitical sense.

      Samaras couldn’t decide these issues even if his life depended on them. He is a classic Gemini, a 50/50 sort of person interested in endless communications. He is not a decision maker. He can see things this way and another way also. He has no cardinal nature.

      What you see unfolding in Greece is a plot hatched and designed 100% in Berlin and handed down to an incompetent Greek pseudo-government for full execution with unlimited home office support.

      As such the outcome is pre-determined and the 180 votes will be found in the end. Germans don’t leave these issues to chance and the German intelligence agencies have thick files on every Greek politician which means that votes can be found in unknwn and mysterious ways on demand.

      The markets are only reacting because once again they are reminded that the political game in Greece is rigged. And since this time turmoil only produces damages to Greece and none to other eurozone members, the Greek stock market rightly so reacts with a collapse scenario because the German ruthlessness is a well known fact. This time Berlin is ready to burn Athens to the ground just like the Persians did 2000+ years ago and for the same reason: stamping imperial authority on the Greeks. EU totalitarianism vs. democracy struggle once again.

      To suggest that somehow the “capital is in on it and it’s fueling terror” on the Greeks is a very poor defense which shows that those who raise it are ignorant of the facts on the ground.

      This is not a fight about economic systems. It’s a fight about sovereignty. And Greece is no longer a sovereign country. It ceased being one in 2012.

      So if you want to re-write this article using true casting then it would be fine otherwise you are spreading rumor and lies pretty much like Samaras does. You become the opposite side of the same coin in spewing your own brand of propaganda.

  • > “It would be a disaster if Greece were to be forced out of the euro”
    EU would lose it’s face if Greece does not follow the rules of the agreements without such a reaction. Imho SYRIZA would be obliged to declare return to Drachma when within a short period no agreement will be found.

    • I agree. I think Merkel et all would call Tspiras’s buff and he would have no option but to either comply or leave. And I think if Greece is forced out of the Euro (which I pray for daily) it will be her salvation. She should never have joined the stupid thing in the first place.

    • Leaving the Euros is the salvation for all countries, not just Greece!

  • So many questions, answered with honesty if I may say. What I was really hoping to read is answers to questions like these: do us Greeks (and why not all of us Europeans) know what a true political and fiscal union would be like? Do we really want such a union? Do our politicians want it? Because if we (most likely) don’t, it is either the “we shall never surrender” disastrous kind of breaking up or the vicious circle of austerity. We are about to find out that us Europeans don’t want to have anything in common, not just the currency.

    • Short answers to your questions:

      1. do us Greeks (and why not all of us Europeans) know what a true political and fiscal union would be like?

      Answer: Yes, heavily German dominated.

      2. Do we really want such a union?

      Answer: No, under any circumstances.

      3. Do our politicians want it?

      Answer: Yes, the MFers feed off of it.

    • Nice answers, although if I may I think the most probable answer to number 1 is No (because most Greeks are politically and economically illiterate so they have no clue as to what a political and fiscal union is), Yes it would be German dominated.

    • And now the million dollar questions: has prof Varoufakis read your replies? And if he has, Does he still believe that a fiscal union is possible? Santa Claus is not coming to town….

    • Of course not! SYRIZA is Europe’s chance to engage with truth. Since when has the truth been a threat?

    • The truth has always been a threat for as long as history is known.

      It would appear this time around the game has been rigged so that 100% of the damage is on Greece and 0% to the eurozone.

  • “Investors are also skeptical that Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras will succeed where Mr. Samaras has failed to secure debt relief. That partly reflects a growing consensus that Greece’s debts are in fact sustainable. Although the nominal debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio is high at more than 170%, Greece’s long-term average interest cost is just 2.3%, below that of many other eurozone countries.

    Japonica Partners, a U.S. hedge fund that has invested heavily in Greek government bonds, calculates that if Greece’s debts were valued on a discounted-cash-flow basis as recommended under international public-sector accounting standards, its debt-to-GDP ratio would be just 18%. That reflects the substantial debt relief that Greece has already received.”


    • Claptrap. A country that must fork out primary surpluses of 4.5% year in year out, for 20 years, so as to service its debt is bearing a debt burden that is immeasurable.

    • Yani are you sure that the 4.5% of GDP primary surplus is meant to cover debt service? Because it looks like the artificial number is based on the German insistence for a debatable margin of safety so that Greece does not have to borrow any longer.

      The essence of the German argument is not the 4.5% primary surplus target per se. That’s a consequence of actions demanded of Greece so that Greece does not relapse into borrowing dependence again.

      And it looks to me that one of the primary reasons that Berlin would not even talk about debt forgiveness is precisely that they don’t want you to get hooked into borrowing patterns. It also looks that having set the Greek annual debt service at the reasonable level of 7 Bil. euros a year they are basically saying “it’s up to you to find the rest” somewhere else I.e. budget trimming).

      Please explain in convincing arguments how Syriza would overcome German resistance on this matter. I have to know this. It’s a must. It’s an all consuming question for me and I like to hear the truth 🙂

    • It will all go to debt repayments, rest assured. Beginning with the ECB-held pre-PSI bonds in the middle of 2014. (I have the figures.)

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