Jeremy Paxman compared Greek financial plight to 'bad kebab being vomited out of euro'

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Earlier this month, Greece sealed its first 30-year bond deal since 2008, highlighting the country’s drastic change in fortunes from its debt troubles a decade ago. The bond issue, which raised €2.5billon (£2.1bn), highlights how Greece has managed to rebuild its access to public markets after it became the centre of the eurozone debt turmoil that followed in the wake of the 2008-09 global financial crisis. The 30-year sale attracted €26billion (£22.2bn) in investor orders, allowing underwriters to set a price at the tight end of the initial guidance, at 1.5 percentage points over a key benchmark known as the mid swap rate.

Asif Sherani, head of DCM syndicate Emea at HSBC, which co-managed the deal, told the Financial Times: “The 30-year is a step back into normality in terms of the global government bond markets.”

It was only nine years ago that Greece risked being kicked out of the eurozone.

In 2012, former BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman even compared the country’s financial plight to a “bad kebab” being “vomited out” of the euro.

The journalist was describing Greece’s political and financial problems when he used the “bad kebab” analogy to explain what the rest of the eurozone wanted to do with the country.

He said: “So the rest of the eurozone now contemplates something we were being told wasn’t conceivable recently, that, like a bad kebab, Greece is vomited out of the single European currency.”

Startled, former Greek finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou, who was appearing on the Newsnight episode live from Athens, told the presenter: “Can I take issue with your ‘bad kebab’ analogy, which I find offensive?

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Jeremy Paxman compared Greek financial plight to ‘bad kebab being vomited out of euro’ (Image: GETTY)

Wolfgang Schäuble, the former German Finance Minister

TV presenter and journalist Jeremy Paxman (Image: GETTY)

“The Greek economy is in a crisis and the Greek people are going through a lot and they deserve some respect. I really did not find that very appropriate.”

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, shared the Greek politician’s dismay at Mr Paxman’s jibe.

He said: “I think that was, actually, quite inappropriate, to say that the Greeks have done something terribly wrong.”

The BBC confirmed that viewers complained about the “kebab” comment, but was unapologetic.

A spokesman said: “Regular Newsnight viewers will be aware of Jeremy’s provocative style and use of humour.

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Anti-austerity rally in Athens in 2017 (Image: GETTY)

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Former Greek finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou (Image: GETTY)

“The comment was firmly in that tradition.

“The guests responded to the comment within the debate, which quickly moved on to a wider analysis of the situation.”

In 2012, Germany drafted plans for Greece to default, potentially leaving the euro, as the EU had started facing up to the fact that the Greek debt crisis was spiralling out of control – with or without a second bailout.

Eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels to approve the next tranche of loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, designed to stave off national bankruptcy while the new Greek government was putting the country’s finances in order.

However, the severe austerity measures being demanded caused such fury in Greece, that Wolfgang Schäuble, the former German Finance Minister, did not believe that any government would have been able to implement them.

According to the Telegraph, his worries were brought into the open after a secret European Commission was published, in which Mr Schäuble claimed that even if Greece had made good on its promises, it would have not been enough to reach the target of bringing total debt to 120 per cent of GDP by 2020.

A eurozone official told the publication: “He just thinks the Greeks cannot do what needs to be done.

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Wolfgang Schäuble, the former German Finance Minister (Image: GETTY)

“And even if by some miracle they did what has been promised, he – and a growing group – are convinced it will not pull Greece out the hole.

“The idea instead is that the Greek government should officially declare itself bankrupt and begin negotiating an even bigger cut with its creditors.

“For Schäuble, it is more a question of when, not if.”

Mr Schäuble’s pessimism was not welcomed in Athens.

The hugely influential German politician’s doubts had been growing for several weeks, and prompted angry exchanges when Greece accused Germany of trying to drive it out of the euro.

His scepticism was not yet fully shared by Angela Merkel, who was said still to be determined to prevent Greece’s financial collapse.

Another official said: “She thinks Greece going bust could cause a shock wave that buries other countries – with Spain and Italy among them.

“It could break apart the entire monetary union.”

Greece came precariously close to toppling out of the eurozone three years later, which required lenders throwing the country a financial lifeline on three occasions.

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