Sunday

5th Apr 2020

EU commission tries to win Greek sympathy

With less than a month to general elections in Greece where radical parties are expected to score well, the European Commission is trying change the impression among Greeks that the EU is only about imposing austerity measure.

"What the commission is saying today to the Greek people is very clear: You are not alone," EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a video message published on Wednesday (18 April) together with a 40-page long paper on where Greece stands and what it still has to do.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 'You are not alone,' Barroso tells Greek people (Photo: John D. Carnessiotis, Athens, Greece)

Speaking later that day in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Barroso likened the two bail-outs and the EU funds put at Greece's disposal with the US Marshall plan that funded the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War.

"Let us recall that the assistance provided under the Marshall Plan amounted to around 2.1 percent of GDP of the recipients,” he said.

The total package of assistance to Greece ... is equivalent to 177 percent of Greek GDP! Yes: almost the double of the growth Greece can generate in one year. This is a very visible symbol of the solidarity which lies at the heart of the Union.”

Barroso floated the figure of €380 billion in assistance given to Greece, compared to the $13 billion-strong Marshall Plan.

But the commission paper notes that 83 percent of the $13 billion-strong Marshall Plan were "grants". Both Greek bailouts - €110 billion in 2010 and €130 billion this year - are loans which are contributing to the country’s debt.

The EU commission also adds €40 billion in EU funding for Greece between 2007-2013 to the total assistance.

The timing of Barroso's motivational speech and the paper promising jobs and economic growth once the bitter pill of more austerity is swallowed is no coincidence, says Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank.

"It is obviously a political document, most of the proposals are not new, they are already mentioned in the memorandum of understanding (linked to the second bail-out) and in the last taskforce reports," Emmanouilidis told this website.

One exception, he noted, is a new focus on the social cost and the record-high rates of youth unemployment. "It shows the fear of what could happen if things go wrong, political and social unrest not only in Greece, but also outside the country."

Is Brussels’ softer message getting across?

Emmanouilidis however remains sceptical that the "we care" message is coming across in Greece, where last month a pensioner shot himself in front of the parliament.

In his suicide note he blamed austerity measures and the Greek government, which he compared to the Nazi collaborators who ruled occupied Greece during World War II.

"If it's an exercise to cool down tempers in Greece and show that the EU is helping, I don't think it reaches the people, who are angry and frustrated," he concluded.

Pensioner suicide shocks Greece

A pensioner has committed suicide in central Athens, giving a human face to the hardship endured by many Greeks as the country slashes spending.

Opinion

How austerity measures may kill states - and the EU

The current one-sided austerity measures not only do not help to bring deficient countries back on track, but endanger the structure of entire state and of the EU itself, writes Klaus Heeger.

Greek central bank chief warns of euro exit

The Greek central bank chief has said his country would have to leave the eurozone if politicians do not stick to the austerity programme after elections.

No breakthrough at EU budget summit

EU leaders failed to reach agreement on the EU's long-term budget, as richer states and poorer 'cohesion countries' locked horns. The impasse continues over how to fund the Brexit gap.

Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote

A trade deal with Vietnam sailed through the European Parliament's international trade committee and after its embassy sent MEPs bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne over Christmas.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU's 'Irini' Libya mission: Europe's Operation Cassandra
  2. Slovak army deployed to quarantine Roma settlements
  3. Lockdown: EU officials lobbied via WhatsApp and Skype
  4. EU: Athens can handle Covid outbreak at Greek camp
  5. New push to kick Orban's party out of centre-right EPP
  6. EU launches €100bn worker support scheme
  7. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  8. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us