Sun. Aug 18th, 2019

Jean-Claude Juncker: "We did not show solidarity with Greece, we insulted it" | Economy

Jean-Claude Juncker: "We did not show solidarity with Greece, we insulted it" | Economy



Almost a decade after the start of the Greek crisis, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, he intoned on Tuesday the mea culpa before the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg for the measures imposed on that country. Juncker, who chaired the Eurogroup between 2005 and 2013, regretted having given "too much importance" then to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and admitted having applied an "unthinking austerity". "We have been insufficiently supportive of Greece, we have insulted Greece," he cried.

The European Parliament joined the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the euro on Tuesday. But at the end of this year there is another much more sour event that Juncker did not overlook. At the end of 2009, the Greek crisis was unleashed, which also marked the beginning of a period of financial instability that extended to Ireland, Spain or Portugal. Greece abandoned last August the protection of its creditors, but it is still prey to a debt equivalent to 176.8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Ten years ago Juncker was not in charge of the European Comission, but yes of the Eurogroup, which brings together the finance ministers of the euro zone. And over that period he made an act of contrition. "There has been an unreflective austerity," acknowledged the head of the community executive, referring to Greece. Among other measures, the country was forced to cut pensions, raise taxes, freeze salaries or apply scissors in public services. Greece no longer lives under guardianship, but suffers the legacy of that stage that snatched 25% of its GDP and left a third of its population on the verge of poverty, according to Eurostat.

Juncker said the measures were taken without the intention of "punishing" anyone, but because there were "structural reforms" that were essential for the country. Even so, the current president of the European Commission did regret having given too much prominence to the IMF, which European leaders, in his opinion, gave "too much importance". "There were several of us who thought that Europe had enough muscle to resist without the influence of the IMF", Summarized Juncker, who added:" If California gets into difficulties, the United States does not address the IMF. We should have done the same. "

However, Juncker did not use either of those two arguments - the need for reforms and the influence of the IMF - to justify the Troika's actions - the Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. "I have regretted the lack of solidarity. We were not sufficiently supportive with Greece. We insult Greece, "he said amid applause from the MEPs.

Success and weakness

The president of the Commission pulled his irony to not dwell on the issue. "I have to leave a bit of suspense to buy my memories, I have to think about those things," he said. Even so, his speech on the 20th anniversary of the euro was not complacent. He applauded the key piece of the single currency and denounced his multiple weaknesses. The triumph was the "independence" of the ECB, which later also claimed the president of the institution, Mario Draghi.

Juncker conceded that the community institutions have had to fight "on occasion" for the autonomy of the ECB. And he pointed out that this criterion allowed the "credibility of the single currency" not to be "in question in the markets". But the euro drags its weak points. "We had to build an economic government in the euro zone," said Juncker, for whom the level of coordination between countries in budgetary and fiscal matters is still insufficient. "[Todos esos elementos] they are still there and we can not lower our arms, "he concluded.

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