The book examines the European debt crisis with particular reference to the case of Greece. It investigates its spillover from a Greek-specific problem to a Eurozone-wide crisis and chronicles the policy responses to combat it. The central argument of the book is that the principal cause of the Eurozone’s problems was, and still remains, the indecisiveness of European elites to tackle its underlying deficiencies. Leading Eurozone countries have been unwilling to commit to a common long-term plan which could deal convincingly with complex and inter-related problems affecting both its ‘core’ and its ‘periphery’. The guiding principle of policy responses thus far has been the pursuit of permanent fiscal discipline. Yet, fiscal discipline alone would not provide the long-term solutions required; a steady course towards economic governance and political unification is necessary. Through the detailed tracing of the evolution of the crisis, the book provides valuable insights into the crucial interconnection between Greece’s own economic troubles and the wider European search for macroeconomic stability and sustainable economic growth. As such, the book appeals well beyond those with a narrow academic interest in Greece. This is very much a discussion about the future of the Eurozone and the European Union as a whole.
The chapter provides an assessment of the two Memoranda that accompanied Greece’s bailouts. It is argued that initial assessments over the sustainability of the Greek debt were overly optimistic and based on projections that did not account for the realities of the Greek economy. The same is also true for some of the assumptions of the second Memorandum. The severe austerity paradigm that underpinned the two programmes was based on a defensive reading of the crisis and a high degree of moralism. Fiscal discipline, although necessary, does not, on its own, constitute a credible exit strategy from the crisis.
The chapter reviews the two most comprehensive assessments of the Greek bailout programmes today. The first one, published by the Bruegel group maintains that the programmes suffered by inconsistencies at the European level and inadequate implementation by the Greek authorities. It is also argued that policy mix should have paid greater attention to the side-effects of excessive austerity and the issue of debt sustainability. The IMF report also acknowledges problems with the policy mix and the underlying assumptions that underpinned it.
The chapter examines the provisions of Greece’s first Memorandum of Understanding with the IMF and the EU. It is argued that the targets set by the Memorandum were not realistic and the severity of the envisaged macroeconomic adjustment was unprecedented in the developed world. It is also argued that the Greek government failed to negotiate with its creditors a deal that would be better tailored to the socio-economic realities in the country.
The chapter discusses the tasks facing the new coalition government in Greece, under Loucas Papademos, in the aftermath of Papandreou’s resignation. It is argued that government was confronted with a huge workload, including the negotiation of the terms of Greece’s second bailout, the implementation of the PSI programme and the recapitalisation of Greek banks. This agenda had to be pursued against a background of growing suspicion on behalf of Greece’s international partners and increasing public hostility within Greece.
The chapter reviews the record of economic reform implemented in Greece during 2010. It is argued that confidence in the Greek economy began to erode further as a result of the government’s inconsistencies, but also due to the fact that many of the fundamental assumptions of the Memorandum proved erroneous. These uncertainties fuelled speculation about a possible restructuring of Greece’s debt.
This chapter discusses the strategy of the Greek government in its efforts to avert an escalating economic crisis during the first months of 2009. It is argued that the message sent by Athens over the nature of its economic troubles was unclear. So was its preference over who should lead a potential rescue of the Greek economy, with both the EU and IMF receiving conflicting signals from Athens.
The chapter discusses the Troika report on the sustainability of Greece’s debt, published in October 2011. In there, the country’s creditors acknowledged that support for the Greek economy should be extended beyond the provisions of the July 2011 package. This admission of failure undermined the credibility of the programme and created a widespread impression amongst public opinion in Greece that the government had lost control. In the EU, much of the discussion centred around the financing of the EFSF, where France and Germany openly disagreed, thus further aggravating fears that the Eurozone could not speak with one voice on the crisis.
The chapter discusses the negotiation of Greece’s second Memorandum which accompanied the country’s additional financing, worth 130 billion Euros. It is argued that the three parties supporting the government were excessively preoccupied with partisan self-interest, thus undermining the credibility of the country’s negotiating strategy with its creditors. Mistrust towards Greece was epitomised by German suggestions that the EU should appoint a Commissioner with executive powers over the drafting of the Greek budget.
The chapter discusses the economic record of the New Democracy government in Greece during 2004-2009. It argues that much needed structural reforms were abandoned during that time and that the government lost control of macroeconomic policy, leaving Greece perilously positioned during the onset of the global financial crisis.