International / Let's talk about Europe

The Christine Lagarde’s Greek back-pedal

Christine Lagarde, former French minister of Finances (from 2007 to 2011) and current IMF Managing Director

Christine Lagarde, former French minister of Economy and Finances and current International Monetary Fund Managing Director was recently interviewed by the Guardian (the British centre-left daily) on the future of the eurozone and the Greek crisis. Queried on the issue that some Greeks are trying to escape tax – and to the consent efforts to reduce the debt – Christine Lagarde did not mince her words considering Greeks “should also help themselves collectively […] by all paying their tax”

This statement was quite clumsy and provoked reactions as in France as in Greece where Evangelos Venizelos, current minister of finances and PASOK leader accused the IMF chief to humiliate the Greek people. This strong reaction constrained Lagarde to back-pedal and to be more compliant with the Greek population, expressing her sympathy vis-à-vis the situation it is experiencing, as indicated on her Facebook page. In reply, Alexis Tsipras, the SYRIZA leader (the radical left coalition) estimated his country did not need the IMF Director’s sympathy

The Christine Lagarde’s declarations, as clumsy and unhappy they are, put forward two facts nonetheless: the IMF Managing Director’s vision on the Greek crisis and the relevance of an austerity plan more and more questioned and less and less backed by the Greek population whereas the internal situation is far to be stabilized, mainly in the perspective of an second early election which might be a remake of the 6th May-poll.

The Christine Lagarde’s point of view once again shows it is needed to listen to the people, if it is not associated, especially when it is directly concerned. In the Greek case, the large part of the population considers it already paid a lot for the crisis and it can’t bear anymore. Moreover, there exists the idea that the Greek person is a profiteer wanting to steal the State paying the least taxes possible, which was put indirectly forward by Lagarde. This cliché is not totally inexact but says a lot about the vision of the troika (IMF, EU, and European Central Bank) regarding the crisis and also on the susceptibility of the Greeks who have the feeling to be betrayed and humiliated by their European partners, reaching their self-esteem and which explains the 6th of May final vote.

The austerity plans cannot be applied if they get consent from the Greeks only, which supposed a listening and a better attention. Using clichés and other platitudes – even clumsily – reinforces the self-esteem of some Greeks and their distrust vis-à-vis institutions having to help them. And if it is important to put Athens in the front of its responsibilities, another view – more human – on the crisis is needed as the suicide of a 70s-year-old person, some weeks ago, recalls it. That probably explains why the IMF Managing Director quickly came back on the declarations before it is too late. And we understand better why George Papandreou, the former Greek socialist PM wanted to organize a referendum on the adoption and not of the austerity plan, the last November, which would have been allowed to Greeks to debate and not to have the impression they are not the masters of their own destiny.