The banks’ secret behind the Greek tragedy

29 June by Maria Lucia Fattorelli

CC – flicker

Greece is facing a huge debt problem and a humanitarian crisis. The situation now is many times worst than it was in 2010, when the TroikaIMF, EU Commission and ECB – imposed its “bailout plan”, justified by the necessity to support Greece. In fact, such plan has been a complete disaster for Greece, which has had no benefit at all out of the peculiar debt agreements implemented since.

What almost no one talks about is that another successful bailout plan effectively took place at that time in 2010, although not for Greece, but in benefit of the private banks. Behind the Greek crisis there is a huge illegal bailout plan for the private banks. And the way it is being done represents an immense risk for Europe.

After five years, the banks got everything they wanted. Greece, instead, got into a real tragedy: the country has far deepened its debt problem, lost State assets as the privatization process was accelerated, as well as shrunk its economy drastically. Most of all, it has had an immeasurable social cost represented by the lives of thousands of desperate people who had their livelihood and their dreams impacted by the severe austerity measures enforced since 2010. Health, education, labor, assistance, pensions, salaries and all other social services have all been destructively affected.

The distribution of the Greek National Budget shows that debt expenses prevail over all other State expenses. In fact, the loans, other debt obligations, interests and other costs cover 56% of the budget:

In May 2010, at the same time all attentions were focused on the abundant announcements about the interference of the Troika in Greece, with its peculiar “bailout” plan, another effective bailout plan and a set of illegal measures to rescue the private banks was also being approved, but no attention was being paid on these ones.

In one shot, justified by the necessity to “preserve financial stability in Europe”, illegal measures were taken in May 2010, in order to provide the apparatuses that would allow the private banks to get rid of the dangerous “bubble”, i.e., the great amount of toxic assets – mostly dematerialized and non marketable assets – that loaded their off-balance sheets |1| accounts. The main objective was to help the private banks to transfer such problematic assets to the European countries.

One of the measures adopted to accelerate the exchange of assets from private banks and settle the bank crisis was the SMP program |2|, which allowed the European Central Bank (ECB) to do direct purchases of public and private debt securities on primary and secondary markets. The operation related to public debt securities is illegal under Article 123 of the EU Treaty |3|]. This program is one among several “non-standard measures” then taken by the ECB.

The creation of a “Special Purpose Vehicle” company based in Luxembourg was another very important measure to help transfer dematerialized toxic assets from the private banks into the public sector. Believe it or not, the European countries |4| became “partners” of this private company, a “société anonyme” called European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) |5|. The countries committed with billionaire guarantees, which was initially set on the amount of EUR 440.00 billion |6| and then, in 2011, was raised to EUR 779.78 billion |7| . The real purpose of this company has been shadowed by the announcements that it would provide “loans” to countries, based on “funding instruments”, not real money. Utterly, the creation of EFSF was an imposition from IMF |8|, which gave it a support of EUR 250 billion |9|.

Together, the SMP and the EFSF represent a crucial complementary asset relief scheme |10| the private banks needed to conclude the public support that had been initiated in the beginning of the 2008 bank crisis in the United States and also in Europe. Since early 2009 they had been applying for more public support to discharge the excessive amount of toxic assets loading their off-balance items. The solutions could be either the direct government purchases, or the transference of assets to independent asset management companies. Both tools were provided by the SMP and the EFSF, and the losses related to the toxic assets are being shared amongst the European citizens.

The exchange of toxic assets from private banks to a company through simple transference, without payment and a proper buy/sell operation would be illegal according to the accountability rules. EUROSTAT changed these rules |11| and allowed, “liquidity operations conducted through exchange of assets”, justifying it by the “specific circumstances of the financial turmoil”.

The main reason the EFSF was based in Luxembourg was to escape from being submitted to international laws. Besides, the EFSF is also financed by the IMF, whose collaboration would be illegal, according to its own statutes. Although, the IMF also changed its rules in order to provide the EUR 250 billion collaboration to EFSF |12|].

According to the Act |13| that authorized its creation, the EFSF Luxembourg company could delegate the management of all funding activities; its board of directors could delegate their functions, and its associates Member States could delegate the decision-making related to guarantors to the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG). At that time, the EWG not even had a full-time President |14|. The German Debt Management Office |15| is the one who actually operates EFSF, and, together with the European Investment Bank, provide support to the operational functioning of EFSF. Its lack of legitimacy is evident, as it is actually operated by a diverse body. EFSF is now the major Greece creditor.

The funding instruments EFSF operates are the most risky and restricted ones, dematerialized, not marketable, such as Floating Rate Notes settled as Pass-trough, currency and hedge arrangements, and other co-financing activities that involve the British Trustee Wilmington Trust (London) Limited |16| as the instructor for issuing restricted type of not-certified bonds, which cannot be commercialized in any legitimate stock market, because they don’t obey the rules for sovereign debt bonds. This set of toxic funding instruments represent a risk to the Member States whose guarantees can be called to pay for all Luxembourg company financial products.

A large proportion scandal would have taken place in 2010 if these illegal schemes had been revealed: the violation of the EU Treaty, the arbitrary changes in the procedural rules by the ECB, EUROSTAT and IMF, as well as the association of Member States to the Luxembourg private special purpose company. All of that just to bailout private banks, at the expense of a systemic risk for the whole Europe, due the States commitment with billionaire guarantees that would cover problematic not marketable dematerialized toxic assets.

This scandal never took place, because the same EU Economic and Social Affairs Extraordinary Meeting |17| that discussed the creation of the “Special Purpose Vehicle” EFSF company in May 2010 gave a special importance to the “support package for Greece”, making it appear that the creation of this scheme was for Greece and that by doing so, it would ensure fiscal stability in the region. Since then, Greece has been the center of all attentions, persistently occupying the headlines of the main media vehicles all over the world, while the illegal scheme that has effectively supported and benefited the private banks remains on the shadows, and almost nobody talks about it.

The Bank of Greece annual report shows an immense increase of the “off-balance” accounts related to securities in 2009 and 2010, on amounts much greater them the total assets of the Bank, and this pattern continues on the following years. For example, on the Bank of Greece 2010 Balance Sheet |18|, the total of assets in 31/12/2010 was EUR 138.64 billion. The off-balance accounts on that year reached EUR 204.88 billion. In 31/12/2011 |19|, as the total balance assets summed EUR 168.44 billion; the off-balance accounts hit EUR 279.58 billion.

Thus, the transference of toxic assets from the private banks into the public sector has been a great success: for the private banks. And the Debt System |20| is being the tool to hide that.

Greece was brought into this scenario after several months of persistent pressure from the UE Commission about allegations of inconsistencies on the statistics data and the existence of an excessive deficit |21|. Step by step a big deal was created over those issues, until May 2010, when the Economic and Financial Affairs Council stated: “in the wake of the crisis in Greece, the situation in financial markets is fragile and there was a risk of contagion”  |22|. And so Greece was submitted to the package that included the interference of the Troika with its severe measures under annual adjustment plans, an odd bilateral agreement, followed by EFSF “loans” backed on risky funding instruments.

Greek economists, political leaders, and even some IMF authorities had proposed that restructuring the Greek debt would provide much better results than that package. This was ignored.

Critical denounces about the super estimation of the Greek deficit – which had been the justification for the creation of the big deal around Greece and the imposition of the package in 2010 – were likewise ignored.

The serious denunciations made by Greek specialists |23| about the falsification of statistics were also disregarded. These studies showed that the amount of EUR 27.99 billion loaded the public debt statistics in 2009 |24|, because of untrue augmentation on certain categories (such as DEKO, Hospital arrears and SWAP Goldman Sachs). Previous years statistics had also being affected by EUR 21 billion of Goldman Sacks swaps distributed ad hoc in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Despite all this, under an atmosphere of urgency and threat of “contagion”, peculiar agreements have been implemented since 2010 in Greece; not as a Greek initiative, but as conformed by the EU authorities and the IMF, attached to the accomplishment of a complete set of prejudicial economic, social and political measures imposed by the Memorandums.

The analysis of the mechanisms |25| inserted on those agreements show they didn’t benefit Greece at all, but served the interests of the private banks, in perfect accordance to the set of illegal bailout measures approved on May 2010.

First, the bilateral loan used a special account in the ECB by which the loans disbursed by the countries and KfW, the lenders, would go straight to private banks that held far-below par value existing debt securities. So, that peculiar bilateral agreement was arranged to allow full payment for those bondholders while Greece didn’t get any benefit. Instead, the Greeks will have to pay back the capital, high interest rates and all costs.

Second, the EFSF “loans” resulted in the recapitalization of Greek private banks and the exchanging and recycling of debt instruments. Greece has not received any real loan or support from EFSF. Through the mechanisms inserted on the EFSF agreements, real money never arrived in Greece, but only toxic dematerialized assets that fill the off-balance section of the Bank of Greece balance sheet. On the other hand, the country was forced to cut essential social expenses to pay back, in cash, the high interest rates and all abusive costs, and also will have to repay the capital it has never received.

We must look for the reason why Greece has been chosen to be on the eye of the storm, submitted to illegal and illegitimate agreements and memorandums, serving as the scenery to cover the scandalous illegal bailout of the private banks since 2010.

Maybe this humiliation is related to the fact that Greece has been historically the worldwide reference for humanity, as it is the cradle of democracy, the symbol for ethics and human rights. The Debt System cannot admit those values, as it has no scruple to damage countries and peoples to obtain their profits.

The Greek Parliament has already installed the Truth Committee on Public Debt and gave us the chance to reveal those facts; so necessary to repudiate the Debt System that subjugates not only Greece, but also many other countries under the exploitation of the private financial sector. Only through transparency the countries will defeat those who want to put them on their knees.

It’s time for the truth to prevail, the time to place human rights, democracy and ethics over any lower interests. This is a task for Greece to take on right now.


Maria Lucia Fatorelli. National Coordinator of Citizen Debt Audit in Brazil (www.auditoriacidada.org.br), invited by the president of Greek Parliament MP Zoe Konstantopoulou to collaborate with the Truth Committee on Public Debt created in April 4, 2015.

Athens : Press Conference Committee for the Truth on the Public Debt

7 May 2015 at the Greek parliament

18 May by Zoe Konstantopoulou , Eric Toussaint , Cephas Lumina , Maria Lucia Fattorelli , Yorgos Mitralias

Participants:

  • Ms. Zoe Konstantopoulou, President of the Greek Parliament and President of the Committee for the Truth on the Public Debt;
  • Mr. Éric Toussaint, Scientific Coordinator of the Committee and head of the group of international experts, historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège. He is the President of CADTM Belgium, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. A specialist in odious and illegitimate debt, he has been analysing debts which lack legal bases for many years;
  • Mr. Cephas Lumina, member of the Committee, Dr Lumina is an Extra-Ordinary Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria. He was appointed the United Nations Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights until end of May 2014. In 2013 he produced the United Nations special report on Greece and Human Rights;
  • Ms. Maria Lucia Fattorelli, member of the Committee and coordinator of the Brazilian Citizens’ Debt Audit Commission;
  • Mr. Giorgos Mitralias, member of this Committee and initiator of the appeal to support this Committee.

Summary of the presentation by Zoe Konstantopoulou

After presenting the participants Zoe Konstantopoulou described the progress the Committee, has made, during the meeting from the 4th to the 7th of May 2015 at the Greek parliament to organise the work, use and evaluate the results and to establish a work-sheet for the following phases.
She announced that government’s departments have been approached with requests for all the documents, memoranda and loan contracts necessary for the audit, all the documents have been made available, including those pertaining to judicial enquiries and the decisions that led up to accepting current memoranda. Some of these documents hold very important information as to how the debt developed, the signatures on the contracts the steps allegedly taken to manage it that actually caused its exponential increase.

The President of the Greek Parliament referred to two other enquiry procedures that will allow deeper insight into the questions raised by the Greek debt than the simple examination of the documents available from the Greek authorities. On the one hand the Committee will hear all persons that may have useful information or evidence concerning the debt. On the other, through the authority of the Hellenic parliament parliament the Committee will request information and answers from any clearly defined international organisation identified as having taken part in the creation or increase in the Greek public debt in order to bring to light any hidden intentions.

It was also announced that the Committee’s next plenary session will take place from 15 to 18 June 2015 and that a preliminary report will be made public. The Committee will then enquire more deeply to complete its mission and work towards a final report which may take until the end of the year or beyond. Finally Zoe Konstantopoulou announced that the civil society is already an active partner of this Committee. This was illustrated by the surprising reaction to the appeal for public support, which collected numerous prestigious signatures from international personalities even before the appeal was official.

Summary of the presentation by Eric Toussaint

Eric Toussaint presented the way the Committee started and intends to continue its work.
During this second plenary meeting of the Committee, which lasted three and a half days, 15 or more presentations were made by commission members that analysed the state of the Greek debt that is demanded by the creditors, each focusing on the specific aspects for which they have the charge.

We see that the Greek debt is characterised by unity of time, protagonists and action: during the 2010 – 2015 period, fourteen Eurozone countries, the ECB, the IMF and the EFSF took over control of 80% of the Greek debt and imposed on the debtor the measures that they had agreed on among themselves.

We have studied the main creditors’ demands to see if they present features pointing to illegitimate, illegal, odious or unsustainable debt. We have worked on the definitions of these terms and have come to a general agreement on these definitions.

We have examined the legal aspects of the debt. We have heard different points of view on this subject, particularly that of professor Giorgos Kassimatis, which has permitted us to identify proofs of transgressions of the Greek constitution and Greek laws, also transgressions of international law in the conditions imposed by creditors.

We have agreed on the form of the preliminary report that we intend to make public on 25 June 2015. We have outlined our work plan. A drafting committee has been set up and sub-committees will make specific contributions on each one of the items that appear in our report.

These drafts will be available from the end of May and the drafting committee will draw on them to produce the preliminary report that will be available on or around the 9 or 10 June so as to be discussed in the plenary session that will be held from the 15 to 17 June.

We have established a list of personalities to be heard. This group of personalities includes some who have taken part in the decisions that have been made and others who bring their expertise, on the effects of the decisions.

The Greek situation is specific: the creditors are not financial institutions or a large sector of the public but a limited number of parties that have imposed precise policies and measures on Greece. On top of the common nature of the parties involved there is a consistency in the method. Such unity of time, parties and measures makes it possible for this audit to achieve preliminary results more rapidly than it may have done in other cases.

Finally, Éric Toussaint brought attention to the fact that the Greek debt audit is already emulated abroad. On 28 April the Argentine parliament decided to do a debt audit over 180 days to show the results before the next elections. It is interesting to note that Argentina is a member of the G20. This demonstrates that the debt question is important throughout the World and the Greek debt audit initiative is exemplary.

Summary of the presentation by Cephas Lumina

Mr Lumina explained the potential incompatibility between managing a country’s public debt and human rights. Two kinds of conflict can arise: when a government has to choose between financing essential public services and repaying its debt or when a government is forced by creditors to implement heavy austerity measures that have deeply negative consequences on its citizens’ living conditions.

In his survey of the Greek situation in 2013 Mr Lumina could establish from several sources that the adjustment measures taken in Greece had a very high cost not just for the government and society but also in terms of taking its toll on the Greek population. Those measures involved breaches into such fundamental rights as the rights to housing, to health and to education. The Greek crisis is not just a financial issue, it is a humanitarian crisis.

He brought into the picture those human faces that are badly hit by the crisis and that he met personally. From his first day in Greece in 2013 he found out about the human crisis as he heard about a bankrupt contractor committing suicide. Next, as he visited a social clinic founded to meet the needs of migrants, he could see that it mainly cared for destitute Greek citizens; he met a former contractor who didn’t even have the bus fare he needed to get back home. He also came across a group of graduates who had lost their jobs and were homeless. Finally he mentioned a 91 year old holder of Greek bonds who was told to wait for another 30 years before he could sell them in order to live.

Auditing the debt is a move that shows the Parliament is facing its responsibility towards the Greek people. In his report on Greece he had recommended such an audit, as he had also done for Argentina where his advice has eventually been heeded too.

Setting up committees to audit public debts is consistent with UN recommendations on the necessary transparency governments owe their citizens during the course of managing their public debts. Such audits are actually a legal obligation for Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability, as is the case in Greece, according to Regulation N° 472/2013 of the European Parliament on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance.

Mr Lumina finally responded to a press article that presented the Committee for the Truth on the Public Debt as a bunch of militant activists. The Committee bears no relation to such a definition. It is a legal obligation that is independent of any political view. Its task is to shed light on the public debt and on the human consequences of the measures taken by technocrats that manage it with no regard for the population. Its task is to make sure that the Human Rights adopted over sixty years ago are vindicated.

Summary of the presentation by Maria-Lucia Fattorelli

Maria Lucia Fattorelli indicated that she has been working with Éric Toussaint on debt issues for over twenty years. She came to Greece to bring her experience of auditing debts to the Greek members of the Committee.

We must find out how the debt was contracted then transferred from private to public creditors.
We must also examine statistical data as well as analyse all conditions and conventions underpinning debt management. We are currently collecting documents and elements that will make it possible for us to understand how the debt was contracted and why it grew out of proportion.
We must also determine the impact of the debt on the Greek economy. To achieve this we cannot be content with a legal approach. We shall also examine the macro-economic parameters that account for the increase of the debt.

My experience in auditing debts has taught me that debts are never an isolated phenomenon but are part of a system with political, economic and legal dimensions. It is important to find out whom the debt system benefited. Has the Greek economy benefited from it, or the Greek citizens?
Answering such questions is the aim to be achieved by all debt audits and also our objective in the context of the present Committee.

Summary of the presentation by Giorgos Mitralias

We have recently launched a campaign not only to support Greece and its Committee for the Truth on the Public Debt, but also to reclaim the people’s right to audit their public debt. This campaign is European as well as international. The original appeal has already been translated into 12 languages, including Arabic, and we are planning to translate it into other languages ​​as diverse as Urdu or Pashto.

We believe that millions of people in Europe and the world want to voice their rejection of the austerity policies and the debt system. The initial reactions to our campaign confirm this assumption.
The first 1,000 signatories include illustrious personalities such as Noam Chomsky as well as some of the World’s best known economists. What is particularly interesting is that these signatures are generally accompanied by comments demonstrating the signatories’ strong motivation. We plan to publish those comments to give you an idea of the massive interest generated by the campaign, to demonstrate that our opinions are widely shared around the world, and to wipe out the feeling of isolation and helplessness too many experience when faced with these harsh realities. For the past two days we have been collecting online signatures from the people in two countries (France and Belgium) and we have already collected 2,600 new signatures. Very soon a massive collection of signatures will commence in other countries.

We have great responsibilities. The signatories want more. They want concrete proposals for actions that could be undertaken together. We must be able to take the plunge.

Question-answer session with journalists

Antonopoulos – STAR TV Channel : During the ongoing negotiations our creditors laid down new drastic conditions. Technocrats are unaware of the sufferings of the common people. As we have signed agreements with them in the past and as there is state continuity, how can we free ourselves from our bonds?

Zoé Konstantopoulou: That is not exactly how things stand. The continuity of the state does not presuppose the continuation of illegal actions. This is particularly relevant when the agreements and the conduct of the signatories do not conform to national and international laws. It is precisely the Commission’s mission to find out whether these agreements and their conditions are compliant with the law, since there have been ample indications to suggest that several elements of these agreements do not conform to legal provisions.

Eric Toussaint mentioned two legal points discussed in the Committee, which can challenge the validity of the contracts: the State of Necessity (or Necessity) and the radical change of circumstances for which creditors are responsible.
According to the doctrine of Necessity, a country is not obliged to continue its debt repayment if that prevents it from fulfilling its basic obligations to the citizens. A country might indeed end up with suspending its debt repayments since international law prioritizes fundamental rights.
As for the Greek case we can additionally bring into play a radical change in circumstances attributable to creditors. Next to a problem of statistically manipulating the debt at the initial stages of the crisis, we have seen a radical change in the country’s economic situation, resulting from the creditors’ decisions (25% drop in GDP, soaring unemployment, humanitarian crisis…). In this case, we can pinpoint the direct responsibilities of the creditors and thus question the validity of the agreements.

M.L. Fattorelli: Also it is important to remember that for any debt to be legitimate there must be advantages for the country and the people concerned. In the Greek case, we notice that these advantages are not always clear. Even the opposite is true when we assess the damage caused by this debt both to the economy and the Greek society. On the other hand, Greece’s latest borrowings were mainly to protect the private interests that were widely exposed to the risks of this debt in 2010. The legitimacy of such a plan must also be examined.

Tomassis – Journalist: How hopeful can we be in the global context? The idea of ​​an audit is good. However, if the findings of the audit turn out to be embarrassing what are the chances that they will be heard and have an impact? Since we know who controls the mainstream media at the national level and what the balance of power is at the international level, isn’t this audit a mere illusion?

Zoé Konstantopoulou: The people have to be optimistic when we are taking initiatives with their interests in mind. Also we have governmental and institutional support for this Commission, while independent authorities cooperating with the Commission are involved. We expect this Commission to come up with significant and tangible results and this is not just a statement for the media. For proof, we have already expanded our initial sphere of activity, including the review of TAIPED (The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund) in particular and the condition of the state assets and properties managed by it. The Marangopoulou Foundation will conduct this review.

Tzanetatos- NewPost: You indicated that a sub-committee to conduct hearings will interview people who have been involved or have suffered from the handling of the debt crisis. Will these hearings also concern the officials of the international institutions involved?

Zoé Konstantopoulou: Naturally the institutions and the interviewees from whom explanations and documents will be requested will include international institutions, their agents and any other persons concerned.

Antigoni Panelli – APE: What are your expectations from the Committee’s work and its possible outcome?

Zoé Konstantopoulou: The Committee aims to shed light on all the aspects of the debt. Thereafter it will become everyone’s responsibility to use the truths revealed. It is particularly the media’s responsibility to know how to deal with these results. After mentioning other reports (including that of the UN and the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Troika’s responsibilities) so far ignored by the media, the President of the Parliament called on the media to do its job for the results to be fully effective.

Maria-Lucia Fattorelli: We must submit a report. It is an instrument, not an opinion. Once made available it is the responsibility of the government and the society to know how to use it to change the situation of the country and its relations with the creditors.

Papayanis- Avghi (daily newspaper published by Syriza): The Committee’s work is likely to extend beyond this year. How can this be used for the ongoing negotiations with creditors?

Zoé Konstantopoulou: As long as the debt exists it can be negotiated at any time. Moreover, this audit is a legal obligation and it would be somewhat surprising if the creditors, who want to invoke all of Greece’s obligations, should refute it.

Translations and adaptations by Thanos Contargys, Suchandra De Sarkar, Mike Krolikowski and Christine Pagnoulle.

Committee for the Truth on the Greek Debt: A successful 2nd plenary session in Athens 4 to 7 May 2015

13 May by Raphael Goncalves Alves

After a first session in April most members met again for four days in order to account for their respective investigations, plan and organize what has to be done for the intermediary report to be handed in by mid-June.

Sessions took place within the Hellenic Parliament where all presentations and debates could be interpreted into the three working languages, namely Greek, English and French.

As scientific coordinator, Eric Toussaint chaired the various sessions, leading debates so as to define the next stages in the Committee’s work. The internal work sessions were complemented by a public session of introduction on Monday morning and a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The four days were presided over by Zoe Konstantopoulou, who is also President of the Parliament. She took an active part in the various work groups in spite of her many commitments. The Committee could also rely on the help provided by Georges Katrougalos, Minister for administrative reform, who was putting his bill for the reintegration of unduly laid-off civil servants to the MPs’ vote. He insisted that the Committee was supported by the whole government and the several ministries.

During the opening session Eric Toussaint recalled the twofold objective of the current audit, namely to provide the Greek government with arguments and answers towards a possible suspension or cancellation of the debt, and to sensitize and mobilize citizens in Greece and all over the world.

In this respect the international appeal launched by Giorgos Mitralias this week and aiming at supporting the Greek audit has to be mentioned
. 300 personalities signed it at once, including Noam Chomsky and Ken Loach, and it is now open to signatures at large. Giorgos had the opportunity to promote the initiative – that has already gained massive support – at the press conference on 7 May.

Report on work done and planning future work

From Monday afternoon until Wednesday morning, sessions consisted of the presentation of what the workgroups had produced. (The groups had been decided on during the first session and bring together 2 to 5 members of the Committee according to their expertise, for them to focus on parts of the investigation and of the final report. We can distinguish three approaches:

- groups working on creditors (ECB, IMF, countries that are members of the euro zone, EFSF, private creditors);
- groups on legal issues (impact of austerity policies on human rights, the legality of the agreements with the Troika, etc.);
- groups on macroeconomic issues (origins of the Greek debt, impact of austerity policies and of the Memoranda on the economy and on the sustainability of the public debt).

Each group reported on its current findings and on the preliminary conclusions it had reached. Each presentation was debated and resulted in collective decisions aiming at giving the group clear instructions for its future work. Convincing evidence of irregularities in the process through which the country contracted its debts from 2010 to 2015 has already been brought up. The intermediary report will consist of those various contributions as harmonized by a drafting committee appointed during the previous session.

The members of the Committee came to an agreement on the structure of the intermediary report. A draft plan drawn up by Eric Toussaint was amended and the final structure of the document was defined by consensus.

It was also decided that the third session of the Committee will take place in Athens between 15 and 18 June 2015. This means that the deadlines are extremely short for the members of this Committee, all of whom – around fifteen Greek and fifteen international members – are working on a volunteer basis. However, as Eric Toussaint pointed out at the closing press conference, the unity of time, of creditors, and of type will make it possible to conduct an audit of the debt more rapidly than has been the case elsewhere (with the audit of Ecuador’s debt, for example). Similarly, the report filed in June will be an intermediary report, but the work will continue thereafter in order to produce a final report that is even more documented.

Information hunters

One of the most significant debates was around the issue of the collection of official documents, a question which was raised during the presentation made by Maria Lucia Fattorelli (coordinator of the citizen audit in Brazil), co-leader of the audit’s Methodology group. The issue is that, in addition to all the documents and information gathered by the members of the Committee, the various Institutions will have to respond to the Committee’s questions if its work is to be done under proper conditions.

During these four days, several authorities have demonstrated full support for the committee, and have promised to provide assistance, in particular as regards collection of documents. An example is the visit by a delegation of the Committee to the vice-Director of the Greek Central Bank. The President of the Committee also announced that she would send the different requests that will enable the Committee to have access to all documents already in the Parliament’s possession.

Finally, in order to facilitate relations with the ministries and the various public administrations, but also to facilitate the internal organisation of the Committee’s requests, a secretariat specifically dedicated to these tasks has been set up.

In the context of information collection, the Committee will also hear a number of people whose testimony can provide information that will be useful, and even essential, to the committee’s work. Accordingly a subcommittee has been set up with the task of preparing for and conducting hearings. An initial list has been drawn up by all the members of the Committee, and the first requests to appear should be issued shortly.

Definitions are ripening

A workgroup led by Cephas Lumina, former UN rapporteur on the effects of debt on the exercise of human rights, was tasked with drafting definitions of “illegitimate”, “illegal”, “odious” and “unsustainable” debt. This was a crucial issue, since the Committee’s official mandate, among other tasks, is to identify such debts. The proposed definitions were largely accepted in substance, and consensus was reached around them after a few amendments were made. They will be presented in the preliminary report to be filed in mid-June.

This means that much work remains to be done by the Committee between now and then in order to successfully complete this historic initiative, unique in Europe, which we hope will inspire other countries and encourage other peoples to demand an audit of their public debt! Note that a parliamentary audit Committee has been launched in Argentina.

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle and Snake Arbusto