ASTORIA – The guests filling the Archdiocesan Hellenic Cultural Center were riveted during the presentations of journalist and author Michael Ignatiou and four commentators on the book Troika – The Road to Catastrophe on February 5.
Several literary and regional organizations joined HALC to host a panel moderated by George Andriotis composed of Professor Theodore Kariotis and journalists Panikos Panagiotou, Katerina Sokou, and Apostolos Zoupaniotis.
Ignatiou has said the title of the book that explores how the leaders of Greece, the EU and the IMF brought Greece to its terrible state came from the communication to Washington of a former U.S. ambassador after a disturbing meeting with a Greek Minister of Economy: “These people have taken the road to catastrophe.”
While the documents Ignatiou discovered form the book’s basis, they also form a story in themselves as institutions like IMF, “the Vatican of capitalism,” guard them with religious fervor. The Freedom of Information Act and Wikileaks were crucial to his effort, which also included hundreds of interviews.
The panelists offered illumination and praise. Panagiotou noted “it reads like a TV serial or novel” – a crime novel. It’s not fiction, however, but the history of a nation brought to the brink of economic destruction and national security collapse, and the stories of thousands who have already literally committed suicide,” he said.
Ignatiou said each recent prime minster made the identical mistake of forcing elections rather than supporting the government in making necessary reforms. Tragically, the opposite course would have benefitted both the nation and themselves.
Like a humane pathologist with a passionate desire to get to the bottom of a disease causing great suffering, Ignatiou said “I simply sought to learn how we got to this point.”
The revelations include details of the 2010 IMF meeting that approved making loans Greece was not eligible for. The participants agreed to ignore the IMF statute for a few minutes, and then return to legality when the Greek deed was done.
Disgraced IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn opposed much of what was done and Ignatiou believes things would have taken a better course had he not resigned.
Ignatiou’s research convinced him Greece would have been better off trying brinkmanship in pursuit of a big haircut in 2010 when the EU was very vulnerable, than in 2015.
He feels Greece could have had that haircut, shortening and avoiding the worst of the crisis, and he emphasized what most never knew: the Troika would have considered it, but legally, Greece had to ask for it. Strauss-Kahn told them to do it, but Athens never did, so French and German banks were protected and the Greek people, looking more like victims of a crime than sheer incompetence, took the hit.
Blame can extend back for decades, but Ignatiou began at 2000. George Papandreou attracted the most criticism, but refused to be interviewed. Ignatiou was grateful, however, that Kostas Karamanlis turned a promised half hour talk into a three-hour meeting.