There’s an excellent post on Keep Talking Greece this evening on the simmering feud between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Spanish prime minister Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Tsipras made a claim that Rajoy’s plan is to “wear down, topple or bring our government to unconditional surrender before our work begins to bear fruit and before the Greek example affects other countries… And mainly before the elections in Spain. … for obvious political reasons“.
Spanish foreign minister García Margallo, returned fire with a statement (a lie actually), that “Had Spain not given €32.744 billion to Greece, it could have increased the unemployment benefits by 50 percent or increase pensions by 38 percent.”
Theheart of the bickering is the rise of the Spanish political party Podemos to the top of the Spanish polls. Elections are later this year. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, and Tsipras are good friends.
Greecification of Spanish Politics
With that backdrop, let’s pick up the discussion with a look at the Keep Talking Greece article “Hellenization” of Spanish politics or How PM Rajoy lies about the Greek loan.
It doesn’t matter whether SYRIZA and PODEMOs have a lot or just a few things in common. PM Rajoy is concerned that if SYRIZA manages to achieve some austerity relaxation, his days on the Spanish PM’s chair are counted.
So what does PM Rajoy do in order to undermine his enemy abroad? He blocks any Greek attempts to reach some concessions by the Euro zone partners, he does his best to crash the slightest hint of a compromise.
I often discussed the Rajoy-SYRIZA conflict with my colleague blogger from Spain Todos Somos Griegos. She had recently published an interesting report and I asked her to translate it in English. Original text in Spanish on Info-Grecia.com.
The slogan “First we take Athens, then we take Madrid” of Alexis Tsipras and Podemos during SYRIZA’s pre-election rally is the perfect justification for the Spanish government to block any concession to Syriza in Europe.
During the Eurogroup meeting in February Rajoy had the harshest and most uncompromising stance against Greece, even towards the proposal to dissolve the Troika. Despite the fact that the troika had caused a true humanitarian and economic disaster, Rajoy insisted that Greece must follow the same path, in unprecedented partisan egoism, because any minimal concession to Greece, could serve in the future to Spain and other southern countries.
It’s very unfortunate that both the government and the PSOE (Social Democrats) agree that concessions to Syriza can skyrocket the vote to Podemos. [They] have sent to Brussels, separately, a warning: “If the troika made excessive concessions to the reforms demanded Syriza in Greece, the door will open and votes for Podemos can skyrocket at a time crucial for Spain and for the EU.”
The People’s Party has begun his campaign centered on the idea of “either PP or chaos” (looking like a carbon copy of the one made by his counterpart Samaras in Greece).
In Spanish press: Podemos slogan ”Tick Tack” indicating time is running out is being displayed with an picture of Tsipras. Is this the Hispanization of the Greek reality or the Hellenization of the Spanish reality?
Lies about the Spanish Bailout to Greece
Foreign Minister, García Margallo, said that “Had Spain not given €32.744 billion to Greece, it could have increased the unemployment benefits by 50 percent or increase pensions by 38 percent.”
The economy minister Luis de Guindos had talked of €26 billion.
In the first Greek bailout through bilateral loans, Spain paid directly €6.6 billion. And this is the real Greek debt to Spain. The second Greek bailout was through the European Financial Stability Fund. Spain is basically guarantor of Greece and it has not taken the loan money to Greece from the pockets of the low pensioners and the poor jobless.
To say it simple: if you’re guarantor to someone’s loan to the bank 1) the borrower does not owe you 2) you will only be called to pay to the bank if the borrower will be unable to pay back the loan.
The lie about the Spanish loan to Greece is becoming central to the People’s Party. Deputy Secretary of Studies and Programs of PP, Gonzalez Pons, said the same nonsense in a press conference. “What is worst is that Spain lent to Greece €26 billion, while 26 million people in Spain could have benefited from this money. I don´t advocate that we don’t pay. I support the return. We still need this money.“
Fact is that Spain never gave all this money to Greece, it only runs the risk of being a guarantor. And these loans shall be returned in a period of 15-30 years anyway.
Adding Up the Numbers
First let’s take a look at the numbers as discussed in Revised Greek Default Scenario: Liabilities Shifted to German and French Taxpayers; Bluff of the Day Revisited.
Dr. Eric Dor, director of IESEG School of Management in Lille has the following numbers.
- Bilateral loans: €6.65 billion
- EFSF: €18.113 billion
- Target2: €5.394 billion
- SMP Bond Holdings: €2.587 billion
- Total: €32.744 billion
Foreign Minister, García Margallo has the total on the nose, but only €6.65 billion was a loan. The rest was a guarantee that could not be spent. Without a doubt Margallo knows the rest were not loans and is thus purposely telling a lie.
The €26 billion mentioned by economy minister Luis de Guindos appears to be roughly bilateral loans plus EFSF plus SMP.
I commented on the conspiracy charges in Greece Accuses Spain and Portugal of Conspiracy; 3rd Greece Bailout Discussion Under Way for €30-50 Billion.
Spanish Prime Minisiter Mariano Rajoy is making a big mistake. Spain can use debt relief. And the citizens of Spain want debt relief.
By taking a hard stance in favor of Berlin, Rajoy adds fuel to the rise of Podemos. Siding with Germany is the wrong thing to do if Rajoy wants to win reelection.
Playing with Fire
Tsipras is a close friend and political ally of Pablo Iglesias, the former political science lecturer who founded Spain’s anti-establishment Podemos movement.
Podemos is currently in the lead in Spanish polls. Elections are later this year.
“Spaniards should be aware that it is physically impossible that they can pursue policies that meet the national interest, within the euro as it is designed. The euro was conceived as a real trap, but nowhere is it written that people have to accept it .” said Iglesias.
An anti-austerity, anti-euro party is leading in the polls. Podemos has an excellent chance of winning the election and putting together a coalition.
The next set of Spanish polls will be very interesting. It’s possible the charges by Tsipras unite a rally behind Rajoy. But if not, it’s all over for the current prime minister.
Reuters reports Juncker says no talks in the euro zone for a third Greek bailout. Why Reuters would even bother posting a denial like that is the question on my mind.
Recall that Jean-Claude Juncker, former Luxembourg PM and former Head Euro-Zone Finance Minister is famous for saying “When it becomes serious, you have to lie“.
Third Bailout Discussions or Not?
Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said third bailout talks are underway.
Juncker said they are not underway. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers’ group said the same thing. Spokeswoman Simone Boitelle joined the deniers with this statement “Euro zone finance ministers are not discussing a third bailout.”
It’s possible that Juncker, backed up by two others, is actually telling the truth. Known liars don’t always lie.
If so, the only possible conclusion is that Spain’s, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos lied when he stated such discussions were underway.
Given that a key campaign pledge of Syriza was no more bailouts, and given the other lies by Spanish officials for political purposes, I think we know who’s lying and why, even if such discussion will become necessary in the next four months.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock