During 2015’s first half, as Greece’s finance minister, I participated in thirteen crucial Eurogroup meetings – before the SYRIZA government (disrespecting the referendum result of 5th July) capitulated. The result of that capitulation was my immediate resignation and a permanent austerity program (until… 2060).
From the beginning, the first Eurogroup, it was clear that the troika leaders dominating those meetings were determined to prevent any serious debate on Greece’s ‘program’. I would arrive with a determination to find an honourable compromise on the basis of apt technical proposals the purpose of which was to help the people of Greece breathe again while minimising the costs to our creditors (that dominated the Eurogroup).
In sharp contrast, the troika leaders, and their complicit finance ministers, would stonewall while refusing to discuss my proposals or to counter-propose anything that made financial, political or moral sense. Again and again they demanded our government’s surrender to a neocolonial, austerity, neocolonial program that they themselves, behind closed doors, confessed it had failed!
After the first three Eurogroup meetings I realised, to my horror, that no minutes were being taken down. Moreover, the absence of any record of what was being said allowed the troika apparatchiks to indulge in an orgy of leaks and innuendos that very quickly spread worldwide.
It was a major Operation in Truth Reversal: The troika was leaking that I would come to the meetings unprepared, without technical preparation, and that I was, instead, boring my colleagues to death with ideological or theoretical speeches that were besides the point.
It was my first, real, and very painful, exposure to the true meaning of fake news.
To be able to brief my PM and parliament accurately on what went on in those interminable meetings, as well as to defend myself from the distortions and downright lies regarding my interventions (as well as of the lies of what the troika folks were saying to me), I began recording the proceedings on my smart phone.
Not wishing to keep this secret, I made this public in an interview with the New York Times – as a means of warning the purveyors of fake news that I could prove they were spreading lies. The reaction of the European Commission was one of fake outrage – but, interestingly, they stopped leaking!
Later, I published my memoir (ADULTS IN THE ROOM) which I based, to a large extent, on those recordings – thinking that it would be the end of the story.
Why am I bothering you now with this 5-year old story?
Because, for reasons I shall outline below, MeRA25-DiEM25 and I have decided that now is the right time to make the said recordings available to the public.
After publishing ADULTS IN THE ROOM, I was not planning to make the unedited recordings public even though, for three years after the book’s publication, and especially here in Greece, the fake news of 2015 are still being peddled as facts. Having distilled in ADULTS most of what mattered, I was prepared to let the matter rest.
However, last week two events here in Greece changed my mind:
1. The new rightwing New Democracy government recently legislated the sale of non-performing mortgages to funds that will trigger mass evictions of families that, due to the never ending crisis, cannot service their mortgages. From 1st May, a new wave of misery is going to engulf our already defeated population. In Parliament, where I lead MeRA25 (DiEM25’s new progressive party in Greece), the PM and his ministers took turns to ‘explain’ what they are doing by blaming their new liquidationist drive on… me and the manner in which I ‘upset’ my finance minister colleagues in those Eurogroup meetings of 2015!
2. My former government colleagues (SYRIZA) have just leaked an internal review of what they did wrong since 2014 and why they were defeated in the July 2019 general election. Their main conclusion seems to be that their finance minister in 2015 (me!) antagonised his colleagues in the Eurogroup, failing to table reasonable proposals, being recalcitrant etc. (i.e. SYRIZA adopted fully the troika’s narrative).
In view of 1 and 2 above it is now abundantly clear to me that the fake news concerning the 2015 Eurogroup meetings are providing the cover for a new wave of assaults against the weakest of citizens. For this reason, in a Parliamentary debate on matters pertaining to labour law involving party leaders (last Friday 14th Feb), I addressed my detractors directly:
“You have spent 5 years”, I told them “lying about what was going on in these Eurogroup meetings. Now you are building upon those distortions new austerity and liquidation legislation. For this reason, before Members of Parliament can cast an informed vote on these bills, they have a right and a duty to know exactly what was being said in those Eurogroup meetings.”
At that point, I read out a Greek High Court decision advising that such recordings are fully legal (provided they do not pertain to the participants’ private life and are recorded in the course of one’s public duties). Then, I took out an envelop containing a USB stick with all the recordings in my possession and submitted it to the House’s secretariat saying that I leave it to the Speaker of the House to decide how he would make the material available to MPs and the public at large.
Soon afterwards, a police officer returned the USB stick to my office, on the orders of the Speaker who deemed my gesture ‘unacceptable’. A few hours later, I issued a statement that DiEM25-MeRA25 will, in view of the Speaker’s stance, release the material to the public.
“You have been telling stories about what went on in these meetings, as if you knew exactly what was said, but now you panic at the thought of finding out what was really said”, we added.
What is the significance of these recordings beyond Greece?
These recordings/transcripts make for fascinating listening/reading for those who want independent insights into the decision-making process within the EU:
- Europeanists have much to learn on how Euroscepticism, Brexit being a case in point, was aided and abetted by the unacceptable decision-making process at the heart of the EU. Learning these lessons is a prerequisite for reforming, or better still transforming, the EU.
- Eurosceptics will, unfortunately, find evidence in these recordings that their attitudes are justified.
- Students of international relations, European studies, finance and economics will gain invaluable insights in how flimsily crucial decisions for the world economy are reached.
- And, finally, since democracy without transparency is utterly impossible, the release of these files is a small, but not insignificant, service to democrats around the world.
WATCH THIS SPACE: DiEM25.org and MeRA25.gr for the release of the unedited recordings around the 10th of March 2020 (once transcripts have been produced and made properly accessible to everyone)
Sign up to the DiEM25 newsletter (https://i.diem25.org/newsletter) if you want to be informed the moment DiEM25 publishes the recordings and transcripts