Despite Positive Spin, Is Greece Still Under Troika's Thumb?

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Despite Positive Spin, Is Greece Still Under Troika's Thumb?

Loaded language and political maneuvering by financial officials meant to remind Syriza government 'that Greece is still under the control of its creditors'

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, pictured here at a meeting in 2014. (Photo: European Union/cc/flickr)

While Greece's left-leaning new government attempted to put a positive spin on Monday's continued talks with European finance ministers, conflicting reports indicate that Syriza's plan to distance the country from its austerity-imposing creditors, the so-called Troika, may be dashed for now.

Following a meeting of the Eurogroup council, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters that—despite pledges made by Syriza—Greece has committed not to take any unilateral actions, and would also not roll back any austerity reforms that had previously been adopted.

And although the new leftist government intended to keep financial officials representing the lending triumvirate—the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank, and the European Union—out of Greece, Dijsselbloem also confirmed that "technical teams" would arrive in Athens on Wednesday to further monitor bailout provisions.

According to the Guardian, the fact that next Wednesday's meeting would happen in Athens rather than Brussels serves as "a reminder that Greece is still under the control of its creditors."

Guardian journalist Helena Smith noted that term "Troika" has now taken on fraught undertones and its deliberate use by various officials during Monday's meeting was done to undercut some of Syriza's initial victories. Smith reports:

The German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, no less, used it four or five times - in what some are calling a deliberate act of spite.

One insider snapped:

“Why couldn’t he just say institutions? We agreed on February 20th that there was no more Troika.”

The Spanish finance minister, Luis de Guindos, who appears to be taking delicious delight in ramming home the message that Greece is heading, inexorably, towards a third international bailout program (even if it will almost certainly not be called that) also spoke of the Troika.

Athens’ Syriza-led government sees it as a huge victory that it has relegated the deeply unpopular triumvirate of creditors to the dustbin of history.

On Monday afternoon, the Greek government released a statement describing the Eurogroup meeting as a "success" because: it marked the official launch of the new program agreed on February 20, which replaces the former austerity regime; Greek's reform proposals were accepted "politically" by the Eurogroup; and the "institutions showed a willingness to resolve the financing problem with immediate effect."

However, contradicting Dijsselbloem's statement, the Greek government said that Wednesday's meeting with technical teams would happen in Brussels. "We remind you that the Troika is a mechanism that belongs decisively to the past," the statement said.

A senior Greek official also reportedly said that the government "will continue enriching the list of reforms with additional proposals that it will elaborate on," which he noted would part of the National Plan for Reconstruction and Growth.

On Friday, the Syriza government sent a letter (pdf) to Dijsselbloem detailing the first list of reform measures. And on Sunday, Greek financial minister Yanis Varoufakis said that if Eurogroup officials rejected the reforms that the Greek government would consider holding a referendum and "resort to the Greek people."

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