A couple of strange timing issues
I remember thinking it a bit weird at the time when, sometime near the close of EU business on Thursday (this can mean 4am the following morning, by the way!), German Chancellor Angela Merkel suddenly announced that the right place for subsequent Greece discussions was at the Finance Minister level. It seemed to me a strange thing to say given that Greece seemed largely to be a political problem, with even the framework of any agreement still apparently to be finalised (e.g. how would debt re-engineering fit into the austerity and reform programme).
It was a bit weird again when, in the middle of Thursday afternoon, it was suddenly announced that there would be no Eurogroup on Friday, but on Saturday evening (and then afternoon) instead. Just what, exactly, were those Finance Ministers up to on Friday? They probably weren’t twiddling their thumbs in their hotel rooms, were they?
And, talking of suddenly, how many times have you ever seen a Prime Minister address his nation at half past midnight on a Friday night? I’m going to suggest it has never happened before. Like ever.
Here’s a thought, then: what if Alexis Tsipras decided a few days ago that, depending on how things turned out in the negotiations, he would wait to get the final offer from the institutions as of Friday close, and then (today) announce a referendum to put it to a vote. After all, the draft programme (even the one the Greek side was presenting) was hardly the stuff of a traditional Syriza manifesto, what with its primary budget surpluses, tax increases, and welfare cuts.
But, somehow, the Institutions found out about the Greek referendum plan. So they more or less ended the negotiations and (implicitly) forced Mr. Tsipras to announce his referendum more or less in the middle of the night.
I could well be completely wrong about all of this. Or even mostly wrong. At best, I’m slightly right. Maybe I’ve let the recent allegations about US spying on the French President (never mind the German Chancellor) go to my head (talking of leaks). But you’re going to have to give me at least a bit of credit, because I did suggest the other day that the IMF wouldn’t be paid on time (‘Why Greece could still default on the IMF’, The Top Note, 24th June), and that Greece was going to take at least another week to resolve than most people had been thinking (‘Greece: Is it time for Extend & Execute’, The Top Note, 25th June 2015). And, actually, it wasn’t the first time this week that strange things were happening with the conduct of EU meetings (‘Veni, Vidi, Tweeti‘, The Top Note, 23rd June 2015).
So, for all of the apparent surprise being expressed by the Institutions and their representatives today, I’m willing to bet that at least somebody outside Greece knew about that referendum decision ahead of time.