Greek Reforms Cut ‘Gross Imbalances and Mistakes’



It was only in the last year of Greece’s bailout that the SYRIZA administration embraced the program, Thomas Wieser, outgoing president of the Eurogroup Working Group responsible for Greece has said.

In an interview on his departure from the post to Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Wieser spoke about his six-year involvement with Greece’s bailout under three different administrations.

Wieser spoke about the difference between the SYRIZA administration now and the first few months of the leftist party coming to power. He referred to previous finance minister Yiannis Varoufakis and the negotiations which led to the signing of the bailout agreement:

“What I remember most is that Varoufakis was into his own monologues and not interested in dialogue.

“This is due to the fact that from the outset he followed the strategy not to reach an agreement with the European partners. And that was with the aim to create panic and in the last minute take a lot of money without any commitments.

“It was a wrong tactic that cost the Greek people a lot of money, growth and employment.”

‘Self-criticism’

The Austrian economist said the reforms required by the program corrected some problems in Greece’s existing system, yet they did not bring profound changes to Greek society.

“This is the work of politicians and citizens of each country,” Wieser said. “They have to exercise self-criticism and look for the causes of the crisis.

“From all the countries that were crisis-stricken, this was best achieved by Ireland. Well, things went well in Spain, somewhat less well in Portugal and Cyprus.

“In Greece we do not see it yet. There is a tendency to blame foreigners. But only when a government embraces the goals of a program and implements it, it can explain convincingly the necessity of the program to its citizens.”

“This was not the case with Greece, with none of the governments,” the former EWG chief continued. “However, things have improved unexpectedly in the last year only.”

When asked whether Greece will need further support after the current rescue program ends in August, Wieser replied:

“We are convinced that after an eight-year adaptation program, Greece has not only to stand on its feet, but it is also obliged to.

“Because in the long run these programs are particularly detrimental to the legitimacy of the domestic political system. Of course, the reforms of recent years did not turn Greece into Switzerland or Luxembourg, but they eliminated gross imbalances and mistakes.”


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