ATHENS: The Greek bailout drama has given rise to a series of buzz words that so rile Athens they have become no-go areas for those attempting to broker a deal.
Here is a list of the offending words:
“Troika”—the nickname for Greece’s creditors, the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank —all of whom keep tabs on Athens to ensure they’re getting enough reforms for their buck.
For many Greeks, the troika is made up of faceless bureaucrats, despised “men in black” with no democratic legitimacy, who lurk around the ministry of finance or gleefully order Athens around by e-mail — the utmost insult.
“Memorandum”—this is the deal Greece signed with its creditors in 2010 and again in 2012, which comes to an end on February 28 unless Athens asks to extend it. In exchange for billions of euros in aid, Greece was obliged to implement a slew of unpopular reforms—termed “barbaric” by the new Greek government— which included public sector lay-offs, pushing back the retirement age and raising taxes.
“Germany”—the byword on the streets of Greece for a ruthless and interfering austerity policy, which claims to be a remedy for the eurozone debt crisis but is squeezing ordinary Greeks dry. Angela Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble are frequently caricatured—sometimes in Nazi uniform—in newspaper cartoons depicting Greece as a German colony.
It can also be a catchword for money due, after Athens renewed claims that Berlin owes it around 162 billion euros ($183 billion) —or around half the country’s public debt—in reparations and an unreturned war loan.
“Extension” and “Bridge”— The EU says Greece must prolong its bailout or risk defaulting on its debts and crashing out of the eurozone. The Greek government insists it wants a “bridge program” instead, which would tie it over while it negotiates a new deal.
Cartoons in Greece’s dailies have had a field day with this, with Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis depicted enthusiastically building bridges, only to find in one case that his unfinished wooden creation was about to be felled by a saw-wielding Merkel.
“Grexit” and “Dirty Exit”—A Greek default would likely mean its exit from the eurozone, but the knock-on effect on its European neighbors feared in 2011 and 2012 may be avoided.
After the diplomatic efforts scrambled across the EU to keep Athens in the zone, however, a failure to clinch a deal before the bailout expires at the end of the month would lead to a “dirty exit”—a term flung about by analysts but strictly avoided by politicians.
“Haircut”—Ruling radical left party Syriza wants Greece’s creditors to write off part of the money it owes. Faced with EU resistance, the government appears open to settling for an extended deadline for debt repayment and lower interest rates—which Varoufakis has termed essentially a haircut with another name.
“Structural reforms”—This is the watchword of the central banks, from Mario Draghi of the ECB to Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank, who never miss an occasion to remind the Greek government, and other European countries, that it’s the key to their future growth.
Their biggest fear? That concessions to Greece would weaken the resolve of others such as Italy and Portugal to implement reforms.
“ELA”—This is the Emergency Liquidity Assistance granted by the Bank of Greece under the European Central Bank’s approval, and is the life-jacket keeping the country’s banks afloat since the ECB cut off a key funding avenue last week.
Critics worry the ELA is only serving to keep the Greek banks alive artificially and have called for strict criteria to govern access.