26/09/2011 Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou: “The response to the Greek crisis has been too timid”
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou is a Greek MEP and member of the EPP (European People’s Party) group. She was interviewed at the European breakfast meeting organised by the ENA (France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration) on the theme “Greece and the European Union: financial and economic perspectives”. It was the perfect opportunity for the MEP to give an overview of the serious crisis affecting her country and to propose some exit strategies.
The ruling party only have themselves to blame
During this meeting, Ms. Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou wanted to acknowledge the work of the European Parliament which, she noted, was the first to adopt an aid package for Greece and to establish the European Financial Stability Facility.
ENA breakfast meetings on Europe
As part of the training on European issues that it offers every year, France’s ENA gives attendees privileged access to MEPs during the Strasbourg plenary sessions. The ninth “European breakfast meeting” took place in the ENA office in Strasbourg on September 14th on the theme “Greece and the European Union: financial and economic perspectives”.
The Greek MEP then proceeded to attack the current government of Georges Papandreou (PASOK, socialist) by criticising the “socially unjust and economically inefficient” measures taken to exit the crisis such as resorting to taxation, even on the lowest earners. As the most disadvantaged in society consume more than wealthier sections of the population, the MEP proposes that instead of lowering interest rates, social welfare is adapted to compensate for the loss of purchasing power.
Why is Greece unable to get beyond the crisis? According to Ms. Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, “the ruling party only have themselves to blame” given their “vote-mongering relationship with citizens and complicity with the unions which explains the size of the public sector”. PASOK, in her opinion, should strive for more efficient collaboration with the Troika (European Union, ECB, IMF) with a view to adopting a more ambitious but realistic programme. In fact, the two sides had agreed a plan for the last tranche of aid to be paid over (€1.3 billion) in September but the government failed to put in place the agreed austerity measures.
The programme that Ms. Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou is advocating involves achieving balance between the budgetary cleanup and growth via rationalisation of public spending on the one hand and stimulating the labour market and the real economy on the other.
Renewing the European spirit of solidarity
European Parliament Vice-President Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou is author of a report on the EU regional policy’s contribution to fighting the economic and financial crisis.
Nonetheless, the MEP stressed that saving Greece and, and the general fight against the economic and financial crisis, requires community backing. “Notwithstanding the support mechanisms, the absorption capacity of structural funds as proposed by the Commission, and even the effort undertaken by my country, the European Union must re-examine the relevance and the conditions of the schedule imposed on Greece”, she said.
Ms. Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou calls on Europe to act in solidarity with Greece in order to “safeguard our welfare and protect our interests in a world that is changing in a competitive and threatening way. This is all the more urgent as our economies get weaker and weaker, our societies are suffering and the younger generations are losing confidence in politics.”
Les réponses proposées par les gouvernements européens sont restées "timides", juge la députée : "on aurait voulu des mesures plus généreuses et efficaces, telles que des euro-obligations pour la gestion commune de la dette". Or la crise peut justement permettre de réfléchir ensemble à des projets d'avenir commun, qui ne passent pas seulement par la finance, mais aussi la recherche ou l'éducation.
The response of European governments has been timid in the Greek MEP’s opinion, “we would have liked more generous and efficient measures such as Eurobonds for common management of the debt”. The crisis may facilitate greater reflection by all Europeans on future plans for the Union which are not only about finance but also about research and education.
In response to questions from the floor, the EP Vice-President then went on to say that there were national political divisions with regard to several sections of the austerity plan but that her party – New Democracy (conservative) – voted in favour of more than half of the reforms. There is therefore consensus on the pressing need to limit the budget deficit. The Greek people, she said, still feel deeply European although they are suffering and desperate as, in material terms, there is no longer any margin to service the country’s debt.
Lastly, several questions were asked about relations between Greece and Turkey. Although relations are amicable (as demonstrated by the common Councils of Ministers), she said, military issues dominate as Turkey threatens Greece’s territorial waters in the Aegean Sea and wants to set itself up as “guardian of the Mediterranean” not to mention the 30,000 Turkish soldiers deployed in Cyprus. Consequently, Greek military spending is three times the European average. For all that, the Greek government and the opposition are in favour of Turkey joining the European Union.