An agreement on the Greek bailout programme was initially supposed to be reached at the Eurogroup meeting of 11 February. As the finance ministers gathered it became clear that arriving at decisions would not be a matter that would be resolved in a day. Greece and its creditors could not even agree to a common press release
The leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia have forged out an agreement for a ceasefire that will end weeks of intense fighting in eastern Ukraine. Following their all-night talks on Wednesday, 11 February in Minsk, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President informed the press that the representatives of Ukraine and separatist rebels had signed a package of measures to implement the failed ceasefire agreement reached last September.
The press conference that followed the meeting of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem captured the attention of the European public. It was a media performance on both sides. Varoufakis drew his government’s hard lines and stated that they would no longer negotiate with the troika. Instead he put forward the demand for a conference to discuss debt relief. Deiselbloem’s performance of the infuriated eurocrat was out of protocol and has been largely understood as colonial by the Greek public. In a later communication with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Dijsselbloem referred to the episode as a misunderstanding.
Chaos has always been a scenario for Greece, ever since the bailout. The mix was there: a bankrupt country, crippling unemployment, violent riots, weekly strikes, neo-Nazis in parliament, a rapid decline in living standards that turned into a humanitarian emergency. Outside Greece, in public analysis and private conversations, the possibility of the destabilisation of democracy came up every now and then, some kind of coup that would send the country to the extreme left or right. For those who indulged in these cassandric predictions the rise of leftist Syriza was a vindication: surely this is a rogue party, self-positioned on the Radical Left, with communist roots, and a populist rhetoric? Discussion of the Greek problem has always involved a degree of fear-mongering, which is useful in the manipulation of public opinion, but rather redundant in adding any nuance to our understanding of a foreign context. A useful key-phrase, if one truly wishes to understand Greece in crisis, is “structural reforms”.
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it has already begun,” said Gorbachev, now 83, at an event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He accused the West and the US of “triumphalism” after the fall of Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe, and noted that trust between Russia and the West had collapsed during the events in Ukraine.