Saturday

13th Apr 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

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.

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.

Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU

European environmental groups have urged the EU Commission to stand firm on implementing the bloc's landmark anti-deforestation legislation — despite a backlash from governments in South America, Africa and some EU ministers.

Opinion

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us