Tuesday

9th Mar 2021

EU task force for Greece ‘here to help, not control’

  • The austerity measures have been met with protests (Photo: EUobserver)

The head of an EU task force for Greece said on Thursday that the aim of the newly established body is to support the country, not to dictate what must be done as it attempts to slash its public debts.

"The task force is here to help, not to control," the task force’s chief, Horst Reicherbach told reporters in Athens.

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The 25-member task force, the bulk of which will remain in Brussels, has been set up to aid the absorption of EU funds aimed at kick-starting growth in the troubled country and advise on how the economy can be reformed.

In particular, Reichenbach said that the task force will focus on accelerating the deployment of European monies to develop tourism, alternative energy and food processing projects and businesses.

The new team is distinct from the inspectors of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank troika, who descend upon Athens to assess whether the government is meeting the conditions imposed by international lenders for the latest dispersal of tranches of bail-out cash.

However, the task force will also nevertheless issue quarterly reports on how the country is advancing in its structural adjustment.

The body will also aid in the construction of a new tax system.

“Greece needs a better tax collection system and we will help to implement this,” he said. “The Greek authorities have already worked on this with the International Monetary Fund and there is a large degree of agreement.”

Arriving in the Greek capital, Reichenbach met Prime Minister George Papandreou and deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos.

He joined the chorus of EU leaders backing up Greece’s efforts to tame its debt-load.

“I’m convinced that by common efforts we can make progress to help Greece make it and there’s determination to do so on both the Greek and European sides,” he stressed.

“There is enormous political will in Greece and political will at the European level to keep Greece in the euro zone.”

The task force arrived in the country as fresh government data showed that unemployment in the country has soared to a record 16.3 percent, up from 11.8 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile youth unemployment has hit 32.9 percent.

Separately, the Council of Europe, a human rights body unconnected to the EU, issued a warning on Thursday that austerity in Ireland - like Greece the subject of an EU-IMF bail-out - could undermine the human rights of some of the most vulnerable in society.

A report from Thomas Hammarberg, the council’s human rights commissioner, warned: “Budget cuts planned in Ireland may be detrimental for the protection of human rights. It is crucial to avoid this risk, in particular regarding vulnerable groups of people.”

The report was issued in the wake of a visit by Hammarberg to Ireland in June.

He called on Dublin to ensure that in the process of slashing spending, the government “assess carefully all budgetary cuts in order to avoid any undesired effects.”

He mentioned education, health and housing as areas for concern, and highlighted his worries about allegations of neglect of senior citizens in privatised old people’s homes.

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