Under Troika Shadow, Greece Takes EU Presidency



ΑΝΑΛΗΨΗ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΥΡΩΠΑΪΚΗΣ ΕΝΩΣΗΣ ΖΑΠΠΕΙΟ ΜΕΓΑΡΟAs Greece formally took over the symbolic European Union Presidency for six months on Jan. 8 with a ceremony including invited European officials, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said he would conclude negotiations with the country’s international lenders during the tenure and seek debt relief.

Samaras hosted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and a host of other foreign dignitaries in Athens to mark Greece’s assumption of the EU Presidency which technically began on Jan. 1.

The festivities were centered around two landmarks – Zappeion Hall and the Athens Concert Hall – with Samaras and Barroso giving a joint press conference, with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy attending, along with a number of  commissioners.

Security was tight throughout the day with a heightened police presence and traffic restrictions across much of the city center. and a ban on protests in the area of downtown Athens around the Parliament and the venue sites as the government said it didn’t want any uninvited citizens anywhere near the ceremonies, only VIPs.

Addressing a joint press conference with Barroso, Samaras declared that “Greece, after great sacrifices, is leaving the crisis behind it.” Apart from economic recovery, he said Athens would focus during the presidency on battling unemployment and tackling security issues, including the problem of unchecked immigration.

Noting the key European Parliament elections in May he said that, “Voters will choose whether they want Europe or not,” although they could be a test of whether Greeks want to keep his New Democracy Conservatives and their partner, the PASOK Socialists in power.

Barroso noted the risk of a rise in “extremism and populism” due to citizens protesting austerity but said, “I don’t expect these forces to win.”

He urged the Greek government and people to adhere to austerity. “This is not the time to slow down the pace of reforms,” he said. “My point is very clear: Programs work, so we should not waste the efforts so far.”

He stressed that Greece was expected to emerge from its recession this year and noted that early talk of a “Grexit” had slowed recovery.

Barroso said that, “Greece has faced an unprecedented challenge these last years. Two years ago, many were betting on a Greek exit of the euro, an implosion of our common currency, and possible disintegration of the EU.

“The European Commission has always stood by the side of the Greek Government and people. I always said that the success of Greece is the success of the EU. And thanks to EU support and solidarity, Greece has withstood the hardest period of the crisis,” he said.

He noted that: “The challenges are still immense, social conditions are still demanding, and unemployment remains at unacceptable levels. But important progress was achieved. Greece is turning around its economy, it will emerge from recession this year, is expected to reach a primary budget surplus, and is reducing its current account deficit.”

He noted the effect of the austerity measures demanded by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) in return for $325 billion in two bailouts had caused hardship.

Ignoring almost four years of protests, strikes and riots by Greeks, he said, “I would like to pay tribute to the Greek people for the courage and dignity they have shown. Greek history and literature is a tale of heroes and prowesses, many of them of a divine or semi-divine nature.

“But these days, what we see is a tale of human heroes. The real heroes are the Greek people. It is now important that the efforts made are not wasted, that the success of the program is not put at risk. Because the adjustment programs do work if they are properly implemented.”

The Greek government also persuaded European Parliament President Martin Schulz to postpone a fact-finding mission of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were due in Athens at the same time to check the effects of unpopular austerity. Critics said Samaras squashed the trip to avoid embarrassment during the festivities.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party which is opposed to the bailout deal and austerity measures, said he would not attend the ceremony to show his dissent.

The ever-upbeat Stournaras said he believed he could get envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to come to terms over how to close a 1.4 billion euro gap in the 2014 budget without restoring to more austerity and agree to a debt cut.

That would force taxpayers in the other 17 Eurozone countries to pick up the tab for decades of wild overspending and corruption in Greece, an unsettling political dilemma that has already been ruled out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is putting up much of the $325 billion in two bailouts. She demanded harsh austerity in return.

A previous Greek government in 2011 stiffed private investors with 74 percent losses in a desperate failed bid to reduce the staggering debt, still at some $430 billion, an amount critics said can never be repaid despite Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ assertion the economy will begin to recover and Greece will return to the markets this year.

Addressing a press conference, Stournaras told reporters that Greece’s economic reform efforts had gone “better than expected” in 2013 and that the impact of the recession had been blunted.

Responding to reporters’ questions, Stournaras said the discussion on possible debt relief for Greece could start as soon as April, when the European Commission’s statistics service, Eurostat, is expected to confirm estimates that Greece will post a primary surplus in 2013.

“The discussion can be completed either during the presidency or after it,” the minister said. Any debt relief is expected to comprise a reduction in interest rates and an extension on the maturities of Greece’s loans, not a new write-down of the country’s debt, although the IMF said even that would violate its regulations and not be allowed.

The Troika envoys are due back in Athens next week and the busy Stournaras is also preparing for upcoming meetings of his Eurozone counterparts in Brussels on Jan. 27-28, although the discussions there are not expected to concentrate on Greece’s lingering troubles.


20 COMMENTS

  1. To lose the European Parliament and Greece’s Municipal Elections all while under Samaras’ watch as El Supremo Presidente’ would indeed be the signal for the Eurocrats to lower the lifeboats and migrate to their next target country.

  2. Now all the EU CRIMINALS and band together at Zappion to discuss the contined looting and total destruction of Greece’s economy!

  3. Yea the EU is responsible for bloating the public payrolls,avoiding taxes,spending all day at the coffee shop,bouzouki at night and the corrupt politicians from all parties. keep dreaming

  4. Anti-corruption Front by the people for the people to stop the country from sliding further…All our political parties are useless and worthless, they care about their political career and their hot seat…Changes in the political arena is a must to attract investors to the country and open the way for jobs…

  5. Yes, you are correct, corruption is a key problem. I would add also that excessive bureaucracy is a problem too, which also feeds to corruption. Changes have to be done at the political level that remove excessive bureaucracy and corruption. However, this is not the root of the problem – its not that magically or by some freak accident incompetent and corrupt politicians came into power. the problem is a cultural one in Greece that permuates through all classes from the richest to the poorest of people. Remember, these politicians have been voted by the Greek people for decades going back to the era of PM Andreas Papadreou, which started this culture of nepotism, perhaps even further back.

    Nothing will change in Greece unless this culture that sees corruption and big government as acceptable and even something to be admired. And instead adopting a culture that admires hard work and innovation. Greece’s economic problems are not recent and stem back decades – most the economic growth it has enjoyed in last two decades has all come from debt, and the game ended finally after all these years of mismanagement the markets refused to lend anymore.

  6. Takis says it right. The Greeks have a reputation for blaming everybody else except themselves. I remember in the Greek school history program they would emphasize strongly how Greece has been a victim of foreign aggressors. And you know for the most part, that’s true, Greece has had a tough time and has not always been fairly treated.

    But this is no excuse, no excuse for the level of economic destruction that Greeks have brought to themselves. And yes, Germany at the end of the day will do what is best for Germany. For Greece to destroy their economy with corruption, red tape and lazyness, borrow themselves to bankruptcy and then go with a begging bowl to Germany, what do you expect? Its not the German’s fault, or the IMF, or the EU – I am afraid to say its the Greek’s fault at Takis says.

  7. If corruption dealt with swiftly, Greeks will think twice not to cheat…If justice is punishing those who feed corruption Greeks will hesitate to follow our corrupt politicians steps…Corruption is in Greece since the 5th century BC a very old practice…

  8. Sure, corruption always existed and will always exist; I am not so much saying that it can be eradicated, I am saying that Greece’s level of corruption is extremely high, akin to a third world country standard.

    For corruption to be dealt swiftly, and justice to punish it, you first need the culture of the whole country to change – people have to change thinking habits that they have had since there were children, that they do unconsciously. The problem is not that politicians are not corrupt, but rather that the whole country is corrupt. Low level clerks in offices are just as guilty as the politicians, as are doctors in hospitals that want their fakelakia.

    What we are talking takes generational change. For that to happen, Greece has to hit rock bottom to motivate a change in culture. Remember in a country there is no central intelligence: politicians, PMs, prosecutors, judges, etc, come and go – its the culture of the country that keeps things in line, not one person deciding that things need to change.

  9. As a Greek citizen living in Greece under these harsh austerity measures been forced on us while our corrupt politicians enjoying the full Monty’s life…Greece cannot assume the EU presidency when the country’s corrupt politicians are not able to solve our problems…

  10. My point is they should have never been let in the Eurozone because the IMF wanted to trick Greece in to loot its banks and natural resources. Has nothing to do with the public spending any free handouts given by IMF & EU, It was a Trick to get them in to debt slavery. Wake up, my friends!

  11. Starts at the top with corrupt PASOK & ND Gov’ts for 40 years looting the State coffers.

  12. WHAT AN ABSURD CARNIVAL SHOW OF SURREAL EU CLOWNS & FOOLS!
    All patting each other on the back for dasterdly, “slip-shod” job well done undone
    In the EU today we have 2 “Criminal Gangs” one from from Brussels run by Barroso, Rhen and Merkel and the other gang is PASOK and New Democracy Parties running a government of Thieves, Liars & Crooks who created all these problems today and should never have been let in the EU.

    It was PASOK & ND Parties who created all the financial problems in Greece
    by their corrupt rule and mismanagement– (Akis Tzahadzopolous and Yiannos
    Papantoniou are ex-MPs from PASOK who are an example of their horrific
    corruption).

    1.) Why isn’t PASOK’s MP Venizelos in jail for hiding the Legarde List 2 years
    in his home? And what about Venizelos’ controversial submarine bribery deal, he
    signed in 2010?

    2.) Why isn’t PASOK’s Finance MP Papconstantiou in jail for removing his
    relative’s names on the List?

    3.) What about PASOK & ND Parties still owing 250 million Euros to the
    Banks in phony loans they have not paid back a penny yet?

    4.) What about Health Minister Georgiades who got caught cheating on his taxes
    the other day and was let off with a minor fine of 1200 Euros. Whys is he still
    a Minister and not fired??

    5.) Why aren’t Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his sister Dora in jail after taking
    BRIBES from Seimens?

    It seems to me the Gov’t, EU Commission and Press here is using ANYTHING as a DISTRACTION to take attention away from the Massive Crimes these two corrupt Parties have committed as well as Treason against the whole Greek nation after 39 years of corrupt rule– They MUST ALL BE IMPEACHED and JAILED for high crimes and TREASON against the Greek People and State!

  13. It has everything to with public spending, as well as, poor governance. It took me over 9 months to get my first Greek (adult) passport. I got an Australian passport in two weeks. When I tell others about this, they are simply amazed at it and think it completely absurd. When I talk to Greeks about it, they are not shocked by it as this kind of thing happens all the time in Greece.

    What sane person makes a business in such a country with so much red tape and dysfunctional governance? That’s why all the businesses have left Greece and so many ppl work for the Gov. How can such a country survive – by borrowing and borrowing, and once the markets finally refuse to borrow to it. then the Greek PM goes to the Germans begging for money – and then yes they become “debt slaves”. What made them “debt slaves”? – red tape, corruption, dysfunction Government, lazyness – there was no trick; just national indifference to bad governance over 30 or 40 years.

  14. Yes it is not Germany’s fault or the IMF nor the EU zone…Greek politicians are to blame for this massive crisis…Their corrupt ways to gain votes in order to stay in power, looting it’s wealth and the mismanagement of it’s economy bankrupt the country…As for laziness, I do not agree as we work very hard unlike the public sector who does not produce any work to attract foreign investors…

  15. The answer to your question is because this is the dominant way of thinking in Greece (not everyone of course but a very large portion of the population) is to think this way: “afto pou ekave den eitan kalo… alla xeris, kai ego ta ekava to idio pragma.” (translated: what the minister did, you know was a very bad thing… but you know, if I was in the same situation, I would have done the same thing). i.e. the attitude that says he should be punished because he is stupid and was caught and not because what he did was a immoral.

    Its everywhere in the culture of the country from every day people giving fakelakia (envelopes) to doctors in the hospitals, to low clerks – micri dictactores (translated: small dictators) bringing difficulties so they can get bribed, to bribing to get a driver licence.

    I was born and lived in Greece, and know and have experienced this. And in fact anyone who has lived in Greece for a significant period knows that this is the way of life – this is how things get done. This is the culture, and this my friends, is why Greece is where it is now.

    Unfortunately the problem is not just with Venizelos and Papconstantiou, the problem is that this has been going back decades. Remember the scandalo koskota under PM Andreas Papadreou – what did people do? they still voted for him…

  16. I would agree with that point; that businesses have to work extra hard to attract foreign investors and to fulfill the volumes of paperwork demanded by the Greek Government.

    I remember talking to a Greek businessman who told me he closed his factory in Greece, registered his company in Switzerland, and outsourced to Bulgaria; when I asked if it was because of the lower wages – he said he wouldn’t run the business in Greece even if wages were lower there – he said in Greece its impossible to run a business, “any country but Greece”, were his words.

    My father was a businessman in Greece, and the then ND and then PASOK governments destroyed his business – so we packed up in disgust and left for Australia. It was hard at first, and worked hard here, and now have a good life.

  17. A horrific meeting of EU Criminals all — Greek unemployment increased to 27.8 percent in October from a revised 27.7 percent in September and 26.1 percent in October 2012, the country’s statistics service (ELSTAT} said Thursday.

    Youth unemployment was at 57.9 percent, data showed.
    All thanks to the Samaras-Venizelos junta Dictatorship here in Greece!

  18. AN ABSURD CARNIVAL SHOW OF ARROGANT EU CLOWNS & FOOLS!
    All patting each other on the back for dasterdly, “slip-shod” job well done undone
    In the EU today we have 2 “Criminal Gangs” one from from Brussels run by Barroso, Rhen and Merkel and the other gang is PASOK and New Democracy Parties running a government of Thieves, Liars & Crooks who created all these problems today and should never have been let in the EU.

    It was PASOK & ND Parties who created all the financial problems in Greece
    by their corrupt rule and mismanagement– (Akis Tzahadzopolous and Yiannos
    Papantoniou are ex-MPs from PASOK who are an example of their horrific
    corruption).

    1.) Why isn’t PASOK’s MP Venizelos in jail for hiding the Legarde List 2 years
    in his home? And what about Venizelos’ controversial submarine bribery deal, he
    signed in 2010?

    2.) Why isn’t PASOK’s Finance MP Papconstantiou in jail for removing his
    relative’s names on the List?

    3.) What about PASOK & ND Parties still owing 250 million Euros to the
    Banks in phony loans they have not paid back a penny yet?

    4.) What about Health Minister Georgiades who got caught cheating on his taxes
    the other day and was let off with a minor fine of 1200 Euros. Whys is he still
    a Minister and not fired??

    5.) Why aren’t Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his sister Dora in jail after taking
    BRIBES from Seimens?

    It seems to me the Gov’t, EU Commission and Press here is using ANYTHING as a DISTRACTION to take attention away from the Massive Crimes these two corrupt Parties have committed as well as Treason against the whole Greek nation after 39 years of corrupt rule– They MUST ALL BE IMPEACHED and JAILED for high crimes and TREASON against the Greek People and State!