Nobody is brave enough to finally pull the plug on Greece and force it to exit the euro so the game continues. The Troika are due to release their report in September but in the meantime on 20 August a €3.2 billion bond is due to be paid. The ECB has stopped accepting Greek collateral. So where does Greece get its funding from? And here lies the fragility of the monetary system because Greek is printing its own money and everyone is turning a blind eye.
A lot of politicians in Germany, but also in other countries, issue zingers about a Greek exit from the Eurozone and the end of their patience. Yet those with decision-making power play for time. They want someone else to do the job. Suddenly Greece is out of money again. It would default on everything, from bonds held by central banks to internal obligations. On August 20. The day a €3.2 billion bond that had landed on the balance sheet of the European Central Bank would mature. Europe would be on vacation. It would be mayhem. And somebody would get blamed.
So who the heck had turned off the dang spigot? At first, it was the Troika—the austerity and bailout gang from the ECB, the EU, and the IMF. It was supposed to send Greece €31.2 billion in June. But during the election chaos, Greek politicians threatened to abandon structural reforms, reverse austerity measures already implemented, rehire laid-off workers….
The Troika got cold feet. Instead of sending the payment, it promised to send its inspectors. It would drag its feet and write reports. It would take till September—knowing that Greece wouldn’t make it past August 20. Then it let the firebrand politicians stew in their own juices.
In late July, the inspectors returned to Athens yet again and left on Sunday. After another visit at the end of August, they’ll release their final report in September. A big faceless document on which people of different nationalities labored for months; a lot of politicians can hide behind it. Even Merkel. And the Bundestag, which gets to have a say each time the EFSF disburses bailout funds.
Alas, August 20 is the out-of-money date. September is irrelevant. Because someone else turned off the spigot. Um, the ECB. Two weeks ago, it stopped accepting Greek government bonds as collateral for its repurchase operations, thus cutting Greek banks off their lifeline. Greece asked for a bridge loan to get through the summer, which the ECB rejected. Greece asked for a delay in repaying the €3.2 billion bond maturing on August 20, which the ECB also rejected though the bond was decomposing on its balance sheet. It would kick Greece into default. And the ECB would be blamed.
But the ECB has a public face, President Mario Draghi. He didn’t want history books pointing at him. So the ECB switched gears. It allowed Greece to sell worthless treasury bills with maturities of three and six months to its own bankrupt and bailed out banks. Under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), the banks would hand these T-bills to the Bank of Greece (central bank) as collateral in exchange for real euros, which the banks would then pass to the government. Thus, the Bank of Greece would fund the Greek government.
Its against the governing treaties but when has that stopped the elites in the EU who can break the rules whenever it suits them. As Eddie Van Halen once said, “To hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”
Precisely what is prohibited under the treaties that govern the ECB and the Eurosystem of central banks. But voila. Out-of-money Greece now prints its own euros! The ECB approved it. The ever so vigilant Bundesbank acquiesced. No one wanted to get blamed for Greece’s default.
If Greece defaults in September, these T-bills in the hands of the Bank of Greece will remain in the Eurosystem, and all remaining Eurozone countries will get to eat the loss. €3.5 billion or more may be printed in this manner. The cost of keeping Greece in the Eurozone a few more weeks. And on Tuesday, Greece “sold” the first batch, €812.5 million of 6-month T-bills with a yield of 4.68%. Hallelujah.
“We don’t have any time to lose,” said Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker. The euro must be saved “by all available means.” And clearly, his strategy is being implemented by hook or crook. Then he gave a stunning interview. At first, he was just jabbering about Greece, whose exit wouldn’t happen “before the end of autumn.” But suddenly the floodgates opened, and deeply chilling existential pessimism not only about the euro but about the future of the continent poured out. Read….. Top Honcho Jean-Claude Juncker: “Europeans are dwarfs”