Firstly, there’s the curious name of “troika”, tagged to the trio of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (ECB). It’s a Russian word that, according to eurosceptic essayist Emmanuel Todd, can stand for the European malaise all by itself.

After a rough start, the members of the “troika”, brought together at the start of 2010 to orchestrate the Greece bailout, still find it hard to pull in the same direction. Far from subsiding, tensions are rising to a peak, as are the criticisms pouring in from both leaders and citizens of European and emerging countries.

At a European forum in Berlin on Thursday, May 16, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, close to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, had some harsh words for the work of the Commission. According to him, fragmented responsibilities in Brussels have been the cause of all the red tape and the bottlenecks in the Greek bailout.

It was a way perhaps for the politician to counter the rise in anti-German sentiment, but also to point a finger at a culprit in the failure of a rescue plan that, three years on, has left Athens worn out and still crippled with debts.

Whatever the intention, Schäuble’s remark echoed the IMF’s growing exasperation with Brussels. “The IMF is getting a little tired, and it’s discovering that with Europe it’s always too little, too late,” summed up a source close to the discussions held during the negotiations on the rescue of Cyprus in March.

The reality is that the Washington-based organisation, which is accustomed to flying to the rescue of countries headed for bankruptcy, and the Commission, which has to juggle economic and political interests, use different methods.

“The European mechanisms are very cumbersome: there has to be unanimity, national parliaments have to be involved – it’s a complex political game that slows down the Commission and complicates cooperation with the IMF,” explains André Sapir, economist at the Bruegel think tank based in Brussels and co-author of a report on the actions of the troika published in May.

On the ground, says Mr Sapir, the technical teams know how to smooth out differences and work in harmony. At the political level, though, the collaboration is less in evidence.

In Brussels, no one dares openly criticise the IMF, whose presence at the table is acknowledged as a guarantee of credibility. The participation of the fund, desired by the Germany and supported by the ECB, reassures the markets. Under cover of anonymity, though, the language is blunt. “The IMF has become increasingly dogmatic” over the plans to bail out Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus, according to a source in Brussels.

The handling of the Cyprus bailout, for which the IMF wanted to make all the decisions but “only” put on the table €1bn of the €10bn in total granted to the country, irritated many: “The IMF has assumed disproportionate power,” another source declares.

The Commission sometimes sees the IMF as a do-gooder snoop, too stubborn to go along with it when it comes to the temptation to dress up the deficit and growth figures of a country getting aid, the better to get the pill down more easily.

Once nicknamed “the cowboys”, the IMF experts are tagged “the Ayatollahs” these days. It’s a surprising qualifier, given the organisation often appears more worried than Brussels about suffocating countries with unsustainable austerity cures.

The IMF doesn’t take the criticisms well, especially with more of the same coming from some its members in emerging countries who find it hard to grasp exactly why, after having taken a merciless tack with countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, the fund is lavishing so much time and money on states in the eurozone.

“For these countries, it is also outrageous to think of the United States claiming IMF aid to bail out California,” points out Simon Tilford of the Centre for European Reform (CER), a London-based think tank.

The ECB’s chair on the troika also gives rise to reservations. Some are internal: the monetary authority, the more orthodox among the staff fear, will be forced to join in the political horse-trading at the risk of compromising the bank’s independence.

The bank, however, is expected only to play the role of “technical counsel” in the troika. “But the demarcations are not always straightforward, and this fuels accusations of conflict of interest,” stresses Mr Sapir. In Ireland, public opinion has criticised the ECB of acting opaquely and in its own interests.

It is Greece in particular that, from the very outset, has crystallised the tensions. And it is still the question of Athens that has the potential to provoke new quarrels. Convinced that the country cannot escape without a new gesture, the IMF is trying to argue its creditors – the states of the eurozone – into agreeing to write off part of the country’s debt. That’s a road European countries don’t want to go down, at least for now.

And that is what is reinforcing the image of a monetary union poorly equipped to deal with the hangovers of its own member states. “It’s sad, and it only intensifies euroscepticism,” concludes Simon Tilford.