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'We underestimated their power': Greek government insider lifts the lid on five months of 'humiliation' and 'blackmail'Le Néerlandais Jeroen Dijsselbloem (de dos) et le Grec Yanis Varoufakis, en février à Athènes. © Reuters.
In this interview with Mediapart, a senior advisor to the Greek government, who has been at the heart of the past five months of negotiations between Athens and its international creditors, reveals the details of what resembles a game of liar’s dice over the fate of a nation that has been brought to its economic and social knees. His account gives a rare and disturbing insight into the process which has led up to this week’s make-or-break deadline for reaching a bailout deal between Greece and international lenders, without which the country faces crashing out of the euro and complete bankruptcy. He describes the extraordinary bullying of Greece’s radical-left government by the creditors, including Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s direct threat to cause the collapse of the Hellenic banks if it failed to sign-up to a drastic austerity programme. “We went into a war thinking we had the same weapons as them”, he says. “We underestimated their power”.
Manifestation du 11 janvier 2015 à Paris. © Thomas Haley
Following the January 2015 terror attacks in and around Paris which left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen, there were huge marches held across France to express public outrage over the events. On Sunday January 11th, an estimated four million people took to the streets of the country’s major towns and cities, with an estimated two million in Paris alone. The French government, and in particular Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has since coined the phrase ‘the spirit of January 11’, using it repeatedly as a rallying call for national unity, notably as it drove through its recent law to introduce mass surveillance powers for the security services. But the recurrent references to what was a remarkable day have now turned sour, amid a heightening debate, as critics on the Right and Left accuse the government of attempting to invent a false conception for cynical political gain. One of them is Christian Salmon, a writer and researcher with the Paris-based Centre for Research in the Arts and Language. In this opinion article he argues that the ‘spirit of January 11’ has “evolved into a confusing scrum, a macabre dance with a cortege of grimacing masks, heroic posturing and denunciations”.
Nicolas Sarkozy, juillet 2013. © (dr)
The media is constantly speculating about the likelihood of former president Nicolas Sarkozy returning to the political fray and ultimately challenging President François Hollande at the next presidential election. Here academic, author and Mediapart contributor Christian Salmon argues that it has always been apparent that Sarkozy would seek revenge for his defeat at the hands of Hollande in 2012, and that the 'will he, won't he' story of his possible return is simply a marketing ploy to get French public opinion acclimatised to the idea. The real issue in 2014, says Salmon, is how to wean France off its addiction to Sarkozyism before it takes hold of the country once again...
As leader of the Socialist Party François Hollande was noted for his talent in blending opposites, for taking the ideas of rival factions and combining them into a compromise deal. But now, as leader of the country, is he in danger of becoming the president of paralysing contradictions? In a powerful critique of President Hollande's time in office so far, academic, author and Mediapart contributor Christian Salmon says that the government’s regular rows and blunders cannot just be put down to inexperience, and argues that the president has effectively surrendered to a neo-liberal agenda.