5th Dec 2023

EU commission wades into Greece's presidential debate

  • Greek PM Samaras wants a former EU commissioner to become Geece's president (Photo: "The Council of the European Union")

The European Commission has denied that it endorsed a former EU commissioner as top candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in Greece despite its public praise of him.

A commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (10 December) that Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras’ choice of former EU commissioner Stavros Dimas as candidate for president had sent a strong signal to Europe.

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“The decision can help remove uncertainties around markets, it is a strong signal to Europe that prime minister Samaras put forward his candidate Stavros Dimas, a former commissioner and a convinced European,” said EU commission spokesperson Annika Breidthardt.

The endorsement of Dimas marks an apparent departure from the Commission’s traditional stance of not commenting on national elections.

But Breidthardt denied taking sides.

“I don’t think there has been a change in the commission policy but at this point we feel like we want to make a statement about the Greek forthcoming elections,” she said.

“We are not taking sides in anyway, we’ve made clear that this is a democratic decision of the Greek authorities and of prime minister Samaras and we are saying it is a strong signal for Europe.”

Dimas was an EU environment commissioner from 2004 to 2010. The 73-year old, who is vice-president of the New Democracy party, was also Greece’s foreign affairs minister from November 2011 to May 2012.

The Greek presidential post is largely ceremonial.

But the presidential election, set for 17 December, is seen as risky because it could provoke a snap general election early next year and see the opposition anti-austerity Syriza party seize power.

Syriza, which is topping the polls, has been arguing that the presidential election is akin to a vote of confidence in the current government.

The move has caused widespread reactions from nervous investors.

Samaras’ announcement saw the Greek stock market plummet by almost 13 percent, its worst performance since the global stock market crash in 1987.

There will be three rounds of voting in the Greek parliament starting next week.

Should Dimas not obtain the required super majority, then parliament will dissolve, forcing an early general election.

Samaras is hoping for an election win by Dimas in order to push through reforms needed to secure Greece’s final bailout package from the troika of international lenders - the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Greece is still due €1.8 billion out of a total of €240 billion under two consecutive bailouts since 2010.

EU finance ministers on Monday agreed to extend the bailout programme by two months.

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