PARIS – In early 2010, a group of men (and a few women) in dark suits landed in Athens. They belonged to a global institution, the International Monetary Fund, and to a pair of regional ones, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Their mission was to negotiate the terms and conditions of a financial bailout of Greece. A few months later, what became known as the “troika” was dispatched to Ireland, then to Portugal, and later to Cyprus.
This endeavor was bound to have wide implications. The troika negotiated what ended up being the largest financial assistance packages ever: loans to Greece from the IMF and European partners are set to reach €240 billion ($310 billion), or 130% of the country’s 2013 GDP – far more in both absolute and relative terms than any country has ever received. Loans to Ireland (€85 billion) and Portugal (€78 billion) are also significantly bigger than those usually provided by the IMF.