European ParliamentPlenarySpeeches

ECON Committee: discussion with Jeroen Dijsselbloem, about the Greek government list

  • Dim. Papadimoulis: “The new Greek Government is very serious and very stable – it has the support of 80% of Greeks – there is absolutely no risk for a Grexit».• Jeroen Dijsselbloem: “Regarding primary surplus, we will come back during the four month extension, which will allow the new Greek government to fulfill its obligations.”

    • Jeroen Dijsselbloem: “If the economic conditions reveal that there is margin, the budgetary targets may be adjusted.”

    Speech by Dim. Papadimoulis on the Committee of Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) of the European Council and response from the President of the Eurogroup, Geroun Ntaiselmploum.

    The Vice-President of the European Parliament and MEP of SYRIZA, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, spoke today on behalf of GUE/NGL, at the meeting of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) in the European Parliament and asked questions to the President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem on the discussion about Economic and Monetary Affairs, where the issue of Greece and its “list” of reforms was dominating.

    The full text of the speech of Dim. Papadimoulis and the relative response of Jeroen Dijsselbloem follows:

    Dim. Papadimoulis:

“Mr. Dijsselbloem I welcome you to the European Parliament. Just now I read the comment of the European Commission regarding the list of reforms that was filed on time by the Greek Government. It is described as “sufficiently comprehensive” and adds that the European Commission is particularly encouraged by the strong commitment of the new Greek Government to combat fraud and corruption. Do you agree with this comment, since you personally have already seen it?
I would like to reassure both fellow German Christian Democrats and British Conservatives that the new Greek Government is very serious and very stable. It has the support of 80% of the Greek citizens according to all the polls as far as the discussions that are taking place, and Greek citizens support with 80% the participation in the eurozone and there is absolutely no risk for a Grexit.

I would like to ask you two things, Mr. Dijsselbloem.

First: According to the Eurogroup decision on November 27, 2012, which you also mentioned, the Eurogroup is committed since the Greek State Budget has primary surpluses, to take additional measures for decreasing the Greek debt – without of course burdening any more the European taxpayers. There are related proposals from the Bruegel Institute that have been filled. When does the Eurogroup plan to discuss and implement, in cooperation with the Greek authorities, such measures?

And the second: You know very well that the ending program caused 25% recession in the Greek economy and a huge humanitarian crisis. Over 25% unemployment, 2,500,000 Greeks live below the poverty line, 9 out of 10 Greeks unemployed don’t receive a cent of unemployment allowance… In the statement on Friday, you have noted “adequate primary surpluses.” The new Greek Government wants primary surpluses, wants neat public finances, but has requested for a realistic downwards readjustment, of the primary surpluses agreed by the previous government, of the unrealistic 3% and 4.5%. When do you plan to give a specific definition of the word “appropriate” (“appropriate primary surpluses”) specific, in order to enhance a dynamic development of the Greek economy?
Jeroen Dijsselbloem:

Thank you for your questions. First of all you asked me whether I share the Commisions positive assessment of the Greek first list. I can’t at this point. Because the right order is for the three institutions to provide us with some advice first and if all three of them are positive we will have a conference call later this afternoon among the ministers to be informed by that and hopefully to be supportive. Then we can continue the process, which I think is crucial, I think we should start it; this is just a first step as I said. It’s no more than a first list and a lot of work has to be done.

Then you asked about the dealing with debt sustainability and referred to the November 12 agreement Eurogroup statement. It strikes me that whenever people refer to it they only take out one of the criteria that is actually in that statement. And that’s not going to happen. There were a number of criteria. First of all it said that the Eurogroup could consider if necessary, which has to do with the question is the debt sustainable in 2020 and 2022, further measures to deal with debt sustainability, on the criteria that Greece has a primary surplus, Greece fulfilling all the commitments in the program, which of course has not happened yet.

I think those were the exact words. So the Eurogroup will consider if necessary, in other words if debt sustainability once again is jeopardized, if Greece fulfils all the commitments and the program is concluded successfully, which requires a fifth review to be concluded. Then we mentioned a couple of possibilities in terms of what kind of measures we could take.

So please if you refer to that statement, use the whole statement and not just one of the criteria. So we will come back to that issue, on the basis of the four month extension, if that is going to be agreed. That will allow the new Greek Government to fulfill its commitments, then we can finalize the whole program period, we can make a new debt sustainability analysis and then we’ll see whether it’s necessary and what further measures if necessary we can take. I think that was your questions”.

Dim. Papadimoulis:

I asked you for the primary surplus”.


Jeroen Dijsselbloem:

“But here again you must read the statement in full, it says the “appropriate” primary surplus, referring again to the November 2012 statement. In November 2012 we came to an agreement that was basically an adjustment of the second program and it was on the basis of a rising number for primary surpluses as you know 1,5% last year, 3% this year, 4,5% next year. Now whether that is still reasonable and appropriate, we will have to see later on. The Greek economy has had a set back at the end of last year and we’ll have to see how the economy evolves over the first half of this year, then it’s up to the commission first of all, to see whether the fiscal targets and the timelines, the increase in primary surplus is still accessible, is still possible giving the economic circumstances. But that is quite a different thing from a government saying we now will no longer respect this targets. That cannot be done unilaterally. So in other words if economic circumstances so require, fiscal targets can be adjusted in programs and have been adjusted in the past. But it cannot be a unilateral decision of the government involved to say “we are no longer committed to these targets” and that’s not the way it can work”.

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