Greek bailout talks have been delayed for 2,500 years. After missing deadline after deadline, Greek PM Lucas Papademos has vowed not to sign the aid package until Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia has been released from prison.
The maverick at the helm of the 952 ft long leviathan of a ship that ran aground off Giglio Island last month could be jailed for over 2,500 years. The bravura manoeuvre that took the cruise liner too close to the rocks left 17 dead, 15 missing and 64 injured. The eternal sentence is made up from a number of convictions; 8 years for every one of the 300 passengers he left when he ‘abandoned ship,’ 15 years for each charge of ‘manslaughter,’ and a further 10 years for ‘causing the shipwreck.’
Schettino claimed to have “tripped and ended up in one of the lifeboats” in a frenzy of confusion that led him off the dangerous listing ship and onto the safety and assurance of dry land. At least 32 passengers were not so lucky.
Of course Papademos has not actually delayed the debt sign-off for 2,500 years – that would be too concrete a date – the negotiations will continue today and throughout the night and for who-knows-how-long.
The crippling austerity measures proposed by the ‘Troika’ (EU, ECB, and IMF) have not gone unnoticed in Greece. Rioters and protestors have taken to the streets today in opposition to the job cutbacks and tax hikes. With Schools shut, ports closed, transport routes disrupted, and criminal gangs at large, the Greek capital is almost at boiling point. Let’s hope that Papademos doesn’t do a Captain Schettino and abandon ship at the critical moment.
Although funnily enough the prevailing attitude of the Greek protestors is that Papademos should abandon ship and turn down the bailout package to avoid the toxic repercussions of harsh austerity that come with it. Nikos Sofianos of the Greek Communist party KKE, has even gone as far as describing the Papademos government as ‘dangerously murderous,’ an embittering comment that even surpasses the costly claims against Captain Schettino’s name. Sofianos’ message is clear: “We have to do everything in our power to stop this agreement with foreign lenders being carried out. These measures are killing Greeks, an entire nation. We won’t let them pass.”
Papademos was appointed as Prime Minister of Greece with the specific task of securing the EU bailout, he was not voted in democratically, but was rushed into power to head a provisional coalition government. He spent 8 years between 2002-2010 as the European Central Bank Vice President so naturally his ideals match that of the ECB; ‘Greece must stay in the Eurozone.’
A hard Greek default could trigger a bout of contagion as other anaemic Eurozone countries could follow suit and leave the 17-nation bloc. Discounting the psychological effect in terms of leadership, stability and public opinion, the first Eurozone exit would cost debt-holders a lot of money – at least with the proposed debt re-structuring deal the banks will receive some of their capital back.
However, EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes has spoken out to the Dutch press today stating the Eurozone will not actually be in trouble if Greece defaults: “What is a man overboard? They always said if a country is let go or asks to get out then the whole edifice will collapse. But that is simply not true.” She makes a compelling point.
With regards to the whole furore surrounding the incompetencies of Captain Schettino and the Costa Concordia tragedy, special praise must be given to the heroic crew members and ad-lib passenger-turned-rescuers, who managed to salvage hundreds of lives as the situation onboard descended into a debacle.
Kroes’ use of the term ‘man overboard’ is reminiscent of Captain Schettino’s absence from the evacuations, but will the Eurozone be able to cope so well without its very own (economically) incompetent member state?