Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Greece's creditors have essentially let it off the hook by overwhelmingly agreeing to take a 74 percent loss. So what better time to remember one of the first times Athens got in trouble with paying its debts.
In 490 BC, the bucolic plains before the town of Marathon were the site of a bloodbath. Invading Persians lost a key battle against Greeks, who were led by the great Athenian warrior Kallimachos, aka Callimachus.
The trouble is, Kallimachos shares some of the difficulty with numbers that modern Greek leaders appear to have. Before launching himself upon the Persians, he pledged to sacrifice a young goat to the Gods for every enemy that was killed.
His troops slaughtered some 6,400 invaders. Unfortunately the Athenians didn't have that many young goats. So they had to spread the repayment and legend has it that it took them a century to honour the pledge.
Never let it be said that the European Union doesn’t get things done.
It may have a slightly maddening way of going about it — last-minute, late-night summits, hours and hours of sweaty, closed-door negotiation, multiple conflicting plans put forward by the likes of the Finns, the Italians and, who knows, the Estonians – and then, hey presto, like the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, at 2 in the morning, a $1 trillion deal to haul the world back from the debt-crisis abyss. All in the name of European unity.
As one Brussels policy analyst put it somewhat delphically : “The EU is not crisis resistant, but perhaps it is crisis proof.”
After five months of struggling to stay afloat in the quicksand of a debt crisis, Greece has finally asked the European Union and the IMF to throw it a lifeline.
Some might think that’s the end of it — Greece now has access to up to 45 billion euros in special funds, it can finance its deficit and refinance its debts at better rates, and speculators (who have metaphorically been stepping on Greece’s head while it thrashes around in the quicksand) have to beat a retreat.
The 16 countries that share the euro single currency have agreed they will help Greece out if it needs. So far so good. But only now is the nitty-gritty of how member states will go about paying for their contributions being hammered out. And suddenly things are getting a little complicated.
Italy announced on Tuesday it would have to issue government bonds — known as BTPs – to raise funds for its part in any Greek assistance.
When the late Joerg Haider, the hard-right populist governor of the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, sold most of his government's stake in Hypo Group Alpe Adria in 2007, he said, beaming: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Carinthia is rich."
BayernLB, which like many other German landesbanken appears to have never met a toxic asset it didn't like, had just paid 1.65 billion euros for a 50 percent stake in Hypo. Around half of that went into Haider's government's coffers.