17th Apr 2021

Juncker wants 'reconstruction commissioner' for Greece

  • Jean-Claude Juncker - 'A reconstruction commissioner should be a positive character' (Photo: European Council)

The EU should appoint a special commissioner dedicated solely to the reconstruction of Greece, eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday (29 February).

"We don't want to humiliate the Greek people. A reconstruction commissioner should be a positive character, not someone who chides Greece," Juncker said in response to sceptical question by MEPs, who pointed to Greece's anger towards a recent German idea to have a special budget commissioner with wide-ranging powers.

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"The case of Greece is unique," Juncker said, noting that it was unprecedented to have a monetary union with a country "departing" from the common rules and not being able to devaluate its currency in order to cushion the economic downfall.

"The very structure of the Hellenic economy is unlike any other euro-economy. The Greek external trade is highly diverse and not very linked to other eurozone economies. That's why I plead for the installation of this commissioner, devoted solely to Greece," Juncker said.

But his 'reconstruction commissioner' has found few fans so far.

"The new economic programme for Greece will be implemented by the Greek government and in doing so we welcome the support of the European Commission. This is sufficient," Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said during a press conference in the EU capital.

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso pointed to the fact that the €130 billion bail-out agreed for Greece last week already provides for "reinforced monitoring" by commission staff and member states envoys.

"The task force reports directly to the vice-president for economic affairs and to me. I wanted to make this a priority not just for one commissioner, but the whole commission - since it touches all the administration in Greece and almost all departments in the European Commission," Barroso said.

But he insisted that the reforms required in return for the second bail-out have to be implemented by the Greek politicians and people themselves. "Ownership must be in Greek hands," he said.

Unlike the first bail-out of €110bn agreed two years ago, which focused too much on cutting the budget deficit, this bail-out is more focused on restoring competitiveness and growth, Barroso said. Asked why he thinks it will work this time around, the Portuguese politician said "because people in Greece understand much better the sense of urgency this time."

The Greek premier , for his part, said the lack of trust in his country was often based on a false premise.

"Over the past two years, we slashed our primary deficit by eight percent of GDP," he said, adding that the population has had to make terrible sacrifices.

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