Row over stalled troika inquiry
Visit to Athens of MEPs investigating bailouts is postponed, sparking criticism from opposition party
A planned visit this week by MEPs who are investigating the way bailouts in Greece and other eurozone countries have been conducted by the troika was postponed yesterday, sparking an angry reaction from SYRIZA but not preventing Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras from responding in writing to the parliamentarians’ questions.
A delegation of members of the European Parliament’s Economic Affairs (ECON) committee, led by Austrian MEP Othmar Karas and French MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc, were due in Athens tomorrow and Thursday but it was announced yesterday that the visit would be postponed.
The MEPs’ visit, during which they were due to meet with Greek officials, would have coincided with the official ceremony marking the moment Greece assumes the European Union’s rotating presidency. SYRIZA claimed this was what prompted the postponement.
“It would have spoiled the fiestas the Greek government is preparing for the EU presidency,” said leftist MEP Nikos Chountis, who is on the ECON committee.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou responded by accusing the opposition party of being “obsessed with conspiracy theories and efforts to tarnish the country’s image.”
Members of the inquiry team have sent questionnaires to a number of officials, seeking answers about how the bailouts have been constructed and implemented. One of those receiving the list of questions was Stournaras, whose answers were made public yesterday.
His most notable responses highlight the social impact of the austerity measures and the limitations of the programs. He says, for instance, that Greece’s “remarkable” fiscal and structural adjustment “has come at an extremely high so- cioeconomic cost.” He highlights economic contraction of 25 percent, unemployment of 27 percent and more than a third of the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
“Also, with the benefit of hindsight, the eurozone didn’t diagnose timely the causes of the crisis in Greece and across the European South, particularly the widening deficits in the current account balances.”
“Moreover, statements of various stakeholders regarding ‘Grexit’ played a very negative role,” he adds. “These statements aggravated significantly the Greek crisis.”