The Mystery of the Greek Finance Minister’s Disappearance

In a normal, European, Western democracy, the government would have handled the issue of the country’s bailout with seriousness and respect for its citizens. Much more so in a country suffering the worst economic crisis since the end of World War II.

Apparently the Syriza-ANEL administration does not see Greece as a Western democracy and treats its citizens as ignorant, gullible fools who are only worth addressing at election time. This is the only explanation after the disappearance of Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos since the completion of Monday’s crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers.

In November, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pledged to the Greek people that the bailout program review that would unlock further financial aid would have been completed by the December 5 Eurogroup. At the same time, the finance minister had said that the country would be in trouble if it failed to close the review by then. That never happened. The promises were transferred to the January 26 Eurogroup. With the same assurances.

That didn’t happen either. In fact, that time Tsakalotos admitted Greece had only implemented only one third of the agreed prerequisites to close the review. At the same time, despite the finance minister’s “confession”, the Greek government started the argument that creditors put additional demands on the table, asking for austerity measures that were not part of the agreement. In two words they indirectly accused the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism that they are lying.

Then the can was kicked until Monday’s Eurogroup. Greek officials expressed reserved optimism that creditors would agree to allow the return of their representatives to resume negotiations. Indeed, euro zone finance ministers agreed that the creditors’ teams will return to Athens next week to resume talks on the condition that Greece will legislate additional fiscal measures from 2019 onward. Without committing to any promise that negotiations would be completed soon, warning that Greece has “a long road ahead” before that.

In the aftermath of Monday’s Eurogroup, the Greek government issued a series of victorious statements about the return of institutions to Athens and some positive comments about the progress made. As for the additional measures that Tsakalotos agreed to in order for the creditors’ teams to return, they invented the argument that for every euro of new fiscal measures asked, there will be one euro for growth measures. Without bothering to explain how that works.

The only person who never talked about what was decided in Monday’s Eurogroup was the man who was present! Euclid Tsakalotos is missing since Monday night, his whereabouts unknown. The man responsible for Greece’s financial affairs is completely absent. When opposition parties asked where is Tsakalotos and why is he not making any statements about Monday’s agreement, the government spokesperson attacked the opposition for playing petty political games on the back of Greece!

Instead of any statement issued by the finance minister, since Monday night, several ministers and Syriza MPs paraded television channels and radio stations celebrating the great victory in negotiations. They repeated the tale of “measures and anti-measures”, as the government has branded the agreement that in essence calls for further slashes in pensions or lowering of the tax-free income. Without, of course, being able to explain how the “euro for euro” plan would work. Instead they went through insane, illogical, incomprehensible arguments about the state of the economy and the bailout program.

Along with the insanity of the explanations, the government officials attacked opposition New Democracy for asking what exactly was discussed on Monday’s Eurogroup. As if the request was the most irrational thing. It is characteristic that when a SKAI radio host asked Minister of Shipping and Island Policy Panagiotis Kouroumblis where is Tsakalotos and why he has not made any statements after the Eurogroup, his immediate reply was: “After the Eurogroup decision, New Democracy lost the validity of the argument for early elections”(!)

It is standard policy of the Syriza-ANEL administration to never answer the questions asked but reply by making statements against opposition parties, and mainly New Democracy that happens to lead in opinion polls with double-digit figures.

Furthermore, the official language of the Syriza-ANEL administration has become George Orwell’s “doublespeak”. According to them, the Greek economy is on a growth path, the Grexit scenario is a scare tactic of the German finance minister, all election pledges of Alexis Tsipras are fulfilled, no pensions were slashed and so on.

Nevertheless, Tsakalotos is still AWOL. After the insistence of almost all opposition parties demanding to hear the finance minister speak about what creditors and Athens will discuss next week, the official answer is that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will answer all questions regarding the economy and the Eurogroup outcome in parliament on Friday.

By then, the administration would have enough time to cook up a good story. Greek people are waiting with bated breath.