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Opinion

Opinion: Back to square one

International auditors are meeting Greek policymakers in Athens to debate whether the indebted country qualifies for another bailout tranche. If you ask DW's Henrik Böhme, it's like déjà vu all over again.

Wait a second - this seems familiar. Athens is again playing host to international auditors, including those from the three institutions which have kept Greece afloat with billions of euros in bailout money.

We know from the protracted rounds of negotiations on a third aid package that every side is going to be extremely resourceful in using a wide range of tactical means at the negotiating table.

You're probably thinking: Wasn't there an incident when former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis used his smartphone to record a meeting with his European counterparts, ostensibly to be able to relisten to what was said? Yes. Yes, there was.

Same suspects, same play

The thing about history is that it tends to repeat itself.

Shortly before the start of the new troika mission, Wikileaks - as if by magic - came up with a recording of a telephone conference in which IMF Europe chief Poul Thomsen elaborated on the IMF's negotiating strategy.

What became abundantly clear was that the old row among Greece's creditors had by no means subsided. The IMF would prefer to abandon Greek bailouts completely because the billions of euros being given to Athens are a tough sell to many member countries' constituencies.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, for his part, would also like to bid farewell to the IMF, a reviled institution among many of his compatriots. On the other hand, he needs the support of Christine Lagarde and her colleagues to counterbalance resistance from Berlin to relieve Greece of some of its debt.

DW's Henrik Böhme

DW's Henrik Böhme

International creditors were at exactly the same juncture 10 months ago when, after weeks of debate, a third aid package was finalized for Greece. What followed was a period of relative calm, all the more so since a number of geopolitical conflicts took center stage, letting people forget about the eternal row over how to save an economically unimportant Mediterranean nation.

We used to hear a lot about European solidarity. What that solidarity is worth can be seen in the context of the so-called refugee crisis.

A different Europe

Of course, who would have called into question the prospect of Athens soon running dry of resources again? Even if the government of Alexis Tsipras is making an effort to implement some reforms, substantial progress is not on the horizon. But more progress is required for Greece to qualify for the next bailout tranche.

On top of that, this coming Thursday Athens will need to pay back some of its old debt again. And let's not forget that Greece needs billions in coping with the influx of migrants. It looks as if the big quarrel about debt forgiveness will be on the table again pretty soon in the Europe of today - a Europe that has dramatically changed its face as of late.

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