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28th May 2016

MEP bailout enquiry in Portugal after postponed Greek trip

  • Greece is in its sixth year of recession (Photo: Gerard McGovern)

A delegation of MEPs tasked to probe the impact of the bailout arrived in Portugal on Tuesday (7 January).

Austrian centre-right MEP Othmar Karas, who is leading the inquiry along with centre-left French MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc, said Portugal is showing signs of recovery.

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But he noted that the country has been given mixed messages from the troika of international lenders - the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Portugal was told about flexibility that never occurred. The Portuguese people have endured significant sacrifices and they deserve to be more clearly informed,” he said in a statement.

The MEPs' trip represents the first time the work of the troika - representatives of which check whether the terms of bailouts are being adhered to - has been formally examined.

Critics - several of whom sit on the European Parliament’s powerful economic affairs committee - say that troika representatives operate without democratic scrutiny while their decisions have significant impact on the social fabric of a country.

The delegation is set to continue its work in Cyprus on Friday and Saturday and then Greece and Ireland later on.

Greece was scheduled as the first visit but was cancelled at the last minute on Monday (7 January) by European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Greek Prime Minister Samaras.

The trip was reportedly postponed, with no new date set, because it would clash with the official launch of the Greek EU presidency in Athens, according to Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

A spokesperson from Greece’s opposition Syriza party told the paper the government is “running scared of a discussion about the goals and effects of the [EU-IMF] memorandum.”

Greece received the first tranche of its €240 billion in bilateral loans in 2010 and hopes to exit the bailout by the end of the 2014.

But with a debt burden at 190 percent of GDP in 2013, the country finds itself in its sixth year of recession and has the highest unemployment rate in the EU.

A member of the Greek delegation accused member states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of being opposed to the enquiry from the start.

“Since the start of the enquiry the European Council and the IMF have made it clear that they are not interested in democratic accountability and transparency,” said German left MEP Jurgen Klute in a statement.

Finance ministers baulk at tax-avoidance rules

Member states will discuss again in June a proposed directive to outlaw practices used by large companies to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, the European Parliament makes progress on its probe of Panama Papers.

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