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1) Headline writers throughout Europe have been manfully resisting all variants on the obvious Oxi-moron joke. This is perhaps because everyone on Twitter came up with it first. (I measured this.)
2) Game theorists are frantically trying to discern the strategy behind Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s abrupt resignation. Has he been inspired by Nash Equilibria or by Nash Schizophrenia? As yet unclear.
3) At least the result of the vote was overwhelming. I say “at least” because one of my fears was a vote so close as to make accusations of fraud and vote-rigging credible. So that’s a good thing, at least.
4) European leaders are now in an “emergency summit” here in Paris. (It seems to me silly to keep calling these “emergency” summits. Surely we need to keep some terminology in reserve? I haven’t yet ventured out to gather man-on-the-street reactions, but I predict that when I do, I’ll see nothing that looks like an emergency. I do expect to hear nonstop griping about the way traffic has again been brought to a crawl by the daily emergency summit.)
Update: It seems I’m not the only one to think this. According to The New York Times, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has downgraded it to a “deep conversation.”
5) I’m puzzled by the prominence of locutions such as this in the media: “The risk of fallout from Greece’s collapse directly hurting other European countries is relatively small. Most of its debt is held by governments who could cope with default.” Does anyone who writes such a thing ever ask himself where, exactly, governments obtain the resources to “cope?” Could I be the only one who suspects taxpayers might somehow be involved?
4) The vice-president of the European Commission for the Euro, Valdis Dombrovskis, is offering reassurances: “We have all the necessary tools to assure the financial stability of the euro zone … it’s clear we’re capable of defending” the single currency, he insisted, even if the results of the referendum “obviously complicate things.” With every word he uttered, investors reacted with more of what The New York Times mutedly calls “muted dismay.”
5) France and Germany don’t seem to be of the same mind about what the outcome of the referendum means. “The basis of a dialogue is on the table, but it’s up to Greece to show us that it takes the dialogue seriously and that it knows it can stay in the euro and that there are decisions to make,” said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.
Le Monde reports that President François Hollande told Tspiras that he was ready to help him. “But you’ve got to help me help you.”
A majority of European states already want to throw Greece out of the Euro, and even if France doesn’t wish this to happen, it can’t for long stand up to them if Athens fails to demonstrate signs of good political and budgetary will. “Tspiras must absolutely show that he’s ready to deal,” said a confidential government source.
(Perhaps Varoufakis’s resignation was meant to be a sign that Tsipras is ready to deal?)
Germany? Not so emollient. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert put it thus: “Conditions to start negotiations on a new aid program are not met yet.” The Greeks, he said, had voted against the principle that solidarity requires countries to take responsibility. (I note that even in print he speaks with a noticeable German accent. The whole subject-verb-object thing just defeats him.)
Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel likewise said that renewed negotiations with Greece were “difficult to imagine.” Tsipras had “torn down the bridges” between Greece and Europe. A debt cut for Greece, said a finance ministry spokesman, “is not on the agenda for us.”
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem found the referendum result “very regrettable for the future of Greece,” but Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni wasn’t so dismayed. “Now it is right to start trying for an agreement again.” On the other hand, he added, “there is no escape from the Greek labyrinth with a Europe that’s weak and isn’t growing.” (A Greek labyrinth, get it?) But Italy, he said, “has always worked for a solid and more integrated Europe. It was true yesterday and it will still be true tomorrow.”
The ECB’s Ewald Nowotny, who’s also president of the National Bank of Austria, seemed to be on the “firmly regrettable” side. Any new Greek deal would take time, he said. Expecting an agreement within two days, as Greece has hopefully proposed, is “illusionary.” (I suspect that’s a mistranslation of “delusional,” but I’m not sure.)
Ah, cheer up! The upbeat Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos just weighed in. His government, he says, is ready to talk about a third Greek bailout. “Everyone wants Greece to stay in the euro,” he declared, leaving it unclear who “everyone” was. But “the rules for the euro remain the same as they were two days ago,” leaving it unclear what those rules were.
And of course there’s Cyprus. “Cyprus will stand with Greece to achieve a loan restructuring that will make its debt sustainable,” President Nicos Anastasiades assured his European countrymen. “The first thing is the absolute respect for the decision of the Greek people, not only from us, but also from all Europeans and in particular from all the European governments.” He too seems to be using the word “all” in a highly limited sense, perhaps as a synonym for, “That’s what I think, anyway.” Cyprus’s finance minister, Harris Georgiades, assured Europe that his bailed-out country would leap to the rescue to write off its rescue loans to Greece — if Germany went first, of course.
Spot any patterns here?
In Oxi-short, Henry Kissinger would still be at a loss if asked what number he should dial to reach Europe. (The journalist in me does wonder what would happen if I dialed this one. I’m awfully tempted. I’ll ask them if they keep Prince Albert in a can.)