Thursday

21st Jun 2018

Interview

Economic recovery 'in spite of' European Commission, says economist

  • There was much speculation in 2013 about whether Slovenia would be next in line for a bailout (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Last year Slovenia was tipped as the next bailout candidate after Cyprus and faced one of the highest borrowing costs in the eurozone. Now, on the eve of EU elections, the experience has sparked a pre-election debate among MEP candidates.

On the left, it is an economist who has the sharpest views. Joze Mencinger, well known domestically, was one of the minds behind the country's privatisation model in the 1990s and was vice-president in the first government after Slovenia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Last month he decided to stand in the EU elections, running for Positive Slovenia, a member of the pan-European Liberal group.

Among those most likely to end up with a seat in the European Parliament, he stands out for his critical approach which makes him a "eurosceptic" among his peers.

"Yes, I am eurosceptic if this means I am not thinking with the head of [European Commission chief] Barroso, but with my own. And if I don't enthusiastically accept everything that the European Commission does," says Mencinger.

"Why should the European Commission be more untouchable than the Yugoslavian government was or any other government?" he adds.

His opponents, such as Milan Zver from the main centre-right opposition party, defend the commission's policies. According to Zver, a bailout for Slovenia "would have been a better solution for the country".

Another of his critics, Lojze Peterle from the centre-right NSI+SLS party, believes that the European Commission was successful in Greece.

Mencinger disagrees. "If this is a success, I don't know what failure is." The country's public debt has risen from 113 to 177 percent of GDP, unemployment from 7 to 27 percent and youth unemployment to 60 percent.

"I agree that there is a slow revival of EU economies. However, this has not happened because of the European Commission, but in spite of it."

According to the economist, the commission's approach to the crisis was fundamentally wrong, particularly the focus on austerity measures and "blaming the public sector for the mistakes of the private sector".

It was "completely incomprehensible" why the commission ignored the "demand" side of the economy since "extreme savings just prolong and deepen the crisis".

During Communist times Mencinger fought against the ruling ideology.

Now he sees prevailing patterns of beliefs governing the EU. "Take privatisation for example. The current calls for privatisation in Slovenia or Greece are without economic grounds and are ideological in the same way nationalisation was in my own country during communism in 1948."

The euro too has changed, moving from something that was above doubt to becoming a burden.

Mencinger has doubts about the steps being taken to protect the eurozone from future crises.

"This not a union, but a regime where the strongest set the rules and reject any kind of redistribution."

He predicts that the banking union, as often happened in communism, "will end up as a huge administrative institution, which does not improve the banking system".

Mencinger says that one of the consequences of the wrong EU policies is the rise in extreme parties.

"For extreme right parties, crisis is an opportunity. They can get followers with simple solutions among people who have lost their jobs," he says.

"People in distress search for scapegoats and extreme right parties offer them foreigners, immigrants and different minorities. The European commission is, because of the mistakes it made, at least partially responsible for this."

In Slovenia itself opinion polls suggest a possible comeback for the national SNS party, led by Zmago Jelinic.

For Mencinger, Europe is at a crossroads and "more rules will not transform a bad system into a good one. Imposing the same rules on a diverse system is as wrong as if we apply different rules to a uniform system."

He believes the main dilemma lying ahead of the bloc is a decision on whether to move ahead to federalise Europe or to return to a customs union.

Slovenia in political crisis

Both the ruling coalition party and main opposition party in Slovenia were plunged into disarray over the weekend.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

News in Brief

  1. PES to announce 'spitzenkandidat' names in October
  2. Macedonian parliament ratifies name deal
  3. EU to hit US with import duties from Friday
  4. Commission: New on-road CO2 test would take years
  5. Juncker orders migration 'mini-summit' on Sunday
  6. Luxembourg gave illegal state aid to energy firm
  7. Negotiators lower finger printing age of refugees to six
  8. EU to lift its internal data storage barriers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. How to get around the EU posted workers directive
  2. EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'
  3. Fate of EU refugee deal hangs in the balance
  4. Merkel, Macron in pre-summit pledge on migration, eurozone
  5. Hungary to push ahead with 'Stop Soros' law on NGOs
  6. Swedish party puts EU referendums back in fashion
  7. EU summit set to outsource asylum
  8. Dutch request to clarify Brexit Britons' rights annulled

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us