Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had planned to “hack” his own government’s software and install a parallel system of payments as the first step to a Grexit (Greek exit from the euro).
The transcripts were first published by Greek newspaper Kathimerini, and the recorded conversation has now been released by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF).
It sounds like the beginning of the call is missed off the recording, so it’s not clear who each voice is — though two are clearly Lord Norman Lamont and Varoufakis.
It seems like one of the more unlikely political friendships in recent European history, but the former Conservative British Chancellor (Lamont) has apparently been friends with Varoufakis for a few years. He and Varoufakis tried to get breakfast at the Reform Club in London in February, according to the FT, but weren’t allowed in because Varoufakis wasn’t wearing a tie.
A caller asks Varoufakis if there could still be a “plan B” involving a Greek exit from the eurozone, and he goes on to explain the plans he’d made.
Here’s the first snippet, with Varoufakis explaining how they would “surreptitiously” replicate the accounts that ordinary Greeks used for tax payments, so that the mirror account could be used to tax or make payments in the IOU currency (or new drachma):
And here he talks about the actual “hack,” saying that everything was ready for the new system to be implemented in the Troika-controlled General Secretariat of Public Revenues, and that they were just waiting for the “green light” from PM Alexis Tsipras himself.
The man organising the phone call asks participants not to make the details of the “slightly sensitive” call public, adding “this is not the BBC.”
That’s the brunt of what he said about the specific Grexit plans. He goes on to talk about his relationships with some of the big actors in the Greek negotiations, including German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble:
“Schaeuble has a plan… The way he described it to me is very simple. He believes that the eurozone is not sustainable as it is, he believes there have to be some fiscal transfers, some degree of political union. He believes that for that political union to work without federation, without the legitimacy that a properly elected federal parliament can bestow upon an executive, it will have to be done in a very disciplinarian way.”
“He said explicitly to me that a Grexit, a Greek exit is going to equip him with sufficient bargaining power, with sufficient terrorising power in order to impose upon the French that which Paris is resisting… A degree of power of budget-making power from Paris to Brussels.”
Varoufakis has got relatively kind words for Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB): “Draghi has carried himself as well as he could. He tried to stay out of this mire, the political mire, impressively. I’ve always held him in high regard, I hold him in even higher regard now having experienced him over the last six months.”
“Having said that, the European Central Bank is set up in such a way that it is impossible not to be political… At once it is the lender of last resort, supposedly, and the enforcer of fiscal austerity.”
It’s a fascinating call and definitely worth listening to the whole thing if you have a spare half hour.