Greeks on the grill
When Greece’s former economy ministers took to the stage to face a partisan crowd at a public panel discussion in London this week, they were held to answer for the financial profligacy that has put Greece at the centre of the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis.
Yannos Papantoniou and George Alogoskoufis, who were at the helm of the Greek economy between 1996-2003 and 2004-2009, respectively, came in for a rough ride when questioned on the country’s financial reporting. You can hear a podcast here.
“I don’t think that any Greek government ever on purpose tried to mislead ,” said Alogoskoufis, before being interrupted by sarcastic clapping and hoots of derision from many in the audience of students, financial professionals and Greek citizens.
Tension was turned up a notch by a question containing reference to the execution of Greek generals in 1922 which prompted one woman to loudly call for a similar fate to befall Alogoskoufis, before the discussion’s chair, Kevin Featherstone, stepped in to calm the situation: “We cannot, in an academic debate, have suggestions like that,” he said.
Papantoniou did not get off lightly either, although he took an active approach to defending his role in Greece’s financial past after fellow panel member Wim Koesters said there had been a lot of ‘creative book keeping’ at the start of the monetary union.
“I ask everybody to be extremely… careful when using words which have an offensive character and falsify the truth,” Papantoniou said, winning furthers jeers and ironic laughter from the crowd.
The animosity towards Germany, which has been perceived to be reluctant to commit aid to bail out Greece from its current debt problems, was clear to see with Papantoniou referring to ‘forces in Germany’ who did not want to see Greece in the euro zone.
It was hardly surprising to see both ministers dodge questions on public spending, statistical reporting and the much-discussed Goldman currency swaps, although members of the gallery clearly seeking their pound of flesh did not go away entirely empty-handed either. At least they got to react directly.