Athens is being driven closer to a Grexit

by , The Guardian A trap door is slowly opening under Athens. The Finns appeared to give it a little nudge last week with a leaked report offering a glimpse of its battle plans should the Greeks exit the euro. In Berlin, the finance minister’s obsession with paying down debts (bizarre when German infrastructure is falling apart) was on display again and gave a further clue that he will not tolerate Greece reneging on its own borrowing. While words like denouement have been used before in reference to the crisis, it looks as if we are on the last chapter of a very long book. With only days left to present a plan and not more than two weeks to come up with some serious cash to repay outstanding loans, Athens is at crunch point. After weeks of contradictory statements, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced the sale of state assets, halted when the leftist-led Syriza government was elected in January, but on different terms. He didn’t say what he would sell, but made the obvious point that there were many things the state owns which will suffer from a chronic lack of investment if left in government hands. Many analysts still doubt a majority of the eurozone countries will let Greece leave the currency bloc. In a small short-term boost, it is understood that the ECB has agreed to increase the ceiling on emergency lending assistance to Greek banks by €1.2bn to €73.2bn (£59bn). The ECB is reviewing the limit weekly while eurozone negotiations continue. Yet the exit seems to edge ever wider. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras, elected on a promise to end austerity, is balking at Brussels’s demands to reform the pension system and labour markets – demands to which his conservative predecessor had agreed. Brussels might relent and push Athens to liberalise other markets as a way to achieve the same end. But window dressing cannot disguise the fact that Greece has not got the money to pay its debts and Europe’s big beasts are unwilling to offer more subsidies.


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