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Greek Gunboat Diplomacy Eupdate and More ECB/EFSF

posted by Anna Gelpern

Someone who wanted to be very mean to the Germans just leaked this document, where they manage to come off as both desperate and inept. The proposal purports to address Greek failure to meet program targets by installing an EU overlord, whose job it would be among other things to pay off the foreign bondholders before funding public services in Greece.

The strategy goes back to the days when imperial gunboats took over debtors' customs houses to pay foreign bondholders, but has been considered impolite in creditor country circles for a century or so. Now it is back as an EU institutional innovation. As for the business of "absolute priority" for foreign creditors, the statement is nonsensical on its face: Greece will enact a law that would make creditors feel "de facto" senior. At best, this would be "de jure," and without a shred of credibility. The actual phrase used--"De facto elimination of the possibility of a default"--surely qualifies for an Oscar nomination.

All this innovating does follow a pattern: take a program that does not work, double down on it, and ratchet up enforcement to the point where no one would ever dream of it. Genius.

And further to my last post, it looks like Richard Barley and Felix Salmon took sides on the EFSF swap possibility a couple of days ago, except that they seem to operate on the assumption (which I shared last May) that EFSF would have to take the loss up front. Now I think that the swap would be worth it even if it only captured the discount for Greece. Phase Two happens when it does.

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