Monday

20th Nov 2017

Eurogroup chief: 'I understand Greek rebellion, but there is no choice'

The president of the group of EU states that use the euro currency announced on Monday (20 June) that yet another emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers will be needed before the latest, €12 billion tranche of Greek bail-out cash can be dispersed.

"I have decided to call an extraordinary meeting of the eurogroup on Sunday 3 July," Luxembourg Prime Minister and eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in the Grand Duchy during a meeting of EU finance ministers.

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  • Juncker: 'We see people rebelling on this.' (Photo: Contact)

He said that the meeting would be necessary to give the zone's imprimatur assuming that the Greek parliament had managed to push through a new €28 billion austerity package and accompany plan for €50 billion in state asset sales.

A fresh EU-IMF-ECB review mission is headed to Greece on Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure that when Athens transcribes its austerity and privatisation commitments into legislation it is indeed living up to the promises it has made to the troika.

The international lenders and eurozone core states say that Greece has repeatedly failed to impose the measures it said it would, unlike fellow bail-out states Portugal and Ireland.

The measures have both precipitated a political crisis in Athens and sparked renewed civil unrest, something that both Juncker and EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn acknowledged.

"Reform fatigue is visible in the streets of Athens and elsewhere," Rehn said. However, he added that core eurozone countries are also tired by the crisis, saying: "So is [there] support fatigue elsewhere."

Juncker for his part appeared more emollient, saying that the popular resistance to austerity "affects me greatly."

"If you look at reactions of people on streets, we see that people are rebelling on all this. I understand that, am affected by it, touched by it."

"An entire people, perhaps except the very rich, are making a tremendous sacrifice, as are people elsewhere in europe. They see social inequality that is unfair, that it is the poorest who are paying too much of the bill.

"That is a feeling that is very infectious, contagious that can affect many people in Europe."

Nevertheless, Juncker repeated the mantra heard throughout the bloc since the start of the crisis, that there is no alternative.

"I continue to say that there is no other choice in Greece and other weakened countries," he said.

He did hold out the possibility that once the process of austerity is completed, Europe is ready to change gears and deliver investment instead of cuts.

"But I do understand that the Greek people need to be able to feel that they can draw breath. Envisaging a design-for-growth policy is something we can offer Greece," he noted.

"Once this ongoing effort is completed, I can assure that we will be reverting to another kind of instrument to stimulate these countries."

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