Greek Saga Ends With the Closing of IMF’s Office in Athens

Sotiris Nikas
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Greek Saga Ends With the Closing of IMF’s Office in Athens

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After almost a decade, the world’s lender of last resort is ready to leave Greece for good.

For a while, Europe’s most indebted nation had everyone worried the Mediterranean holiday destination was going to trigger the collapse of the euro. Its ups and downs had markets gyrating. Then came the biggest bailout in global financial history.

The International Monetary Fund led the effort to save Greece from itself. At the beginning of the 10-year crisis in Greece, the Washington-based institution had asked for a restructuring of country’s debt. There was a protracted and painful debate about the merits of austerity that mutated into game of brinkmanship that brought Greece to the very edge of the cliff.

The Greeks loathed the IMF. It was one of the “bad guys” in the so-called troika of lenders that included the European Central Bank and the European Union’s executive arm, the commission. Together, the institutions pumped more than 290 billion euros (more than $320 billion) into Greece between 2010 and 2018.

The IMF presence was physical, in the shape of a permanent office in central Athens. Now, as the world’s attention turns to another geopolitical crisis, the fund is finally ready to pack its bags.

The decision was announced as new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Washington. A former banker, he came to power by ousting Alexis Tsipras, the man who took on the EU and lost.

“We look forward to a whole new chapter in our relationship, a relationship of positive cooperation,” Mitsotakis told reporters on Monday after meeting with the IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, herself relatively new to the job.

It marks a degree of closure to a relationship that’s rarely been easy. In 2019, Greece repaid a slice of the money owed sooner than scheduled. The government plans to repay upfront more of the IMF loans in 2020, in an attempt to prove that the crisis is over -- for good.

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