Tag Archives: European Commission

Who will hear Greece’s cry?

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was in Athens on Thursday. It was the first visit to Greece by the head of any of the troika elements since the country agreed its first bailout in May 2010. Greece’s isolation within Europe could not be highlighted or summed up in a better way.

Barroso brought kind words of support and messages about growth, which the Greek government will treat as a useful display of solidarity in these difficult and lonely times. But the EC chief’s visit was eclipsed by the presence of the top troika officials in Athens.

Greece’s immediate fate rests in the hands of these three men. The words this trio includes in their review of the Greek program, due by the beginning of September, is likely to determine whether eurozone leaders and the IMF board approve the release of more loan installments.

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Greek MEP leads campaign for financial transaction tax in EU

Brussels – Given Greece’s economic woes, one would perhaps not associate the country with groundbreaking initiatives on taxation, but a Greek member of the European Parliament, Anni Podimata, is at the forefront of a growing campaign to introduce a financial transaction tax (FTT) in Europe.

The idea put forward by Podimata — who is the rapporteur for the EP position on the issue — has been adopted as a legislative proposal by the European Commission, and the former journalist and MEP for PASOK spent the last few days suggesting some changes to the tax, which would see traders paying 0.1 percent for transactions involving shares and bonds, and 0.01 percent for derivatives.

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Choose any color you want

There are many reasons why you might not want to be George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras or Giorgos Karatzaferis, but this weekend in particular the leaders of three parties in Greece’s coalition government find themselves in the most unenviable of positions.

They are due to hold talks with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on the measures that Greece will have to implement to receive further loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. But the leaders of PASOK, New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) are walking into a lose-lose situation.

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An EU force for the task at hand

For some, its presence in Athens is a clear indication that Greece’s eurozone partners want to run the country themselves; for others it is a confirmation that the European Union wants to offer practical help. Whatever your view on the EU Task Force for Greece, though, there are a couple of things that are undeniable: the team from Brussels is aiming to facilitate the disbursement of about 15 billion euros in EU structural funds over the next two years that would help Greek jobs and businesses, and it is helping provide expertise in areas of Greek public administration that suffer from chronic problems, such as tax collection and the judicial system.

The Task Force officially assumed its role in Greece on September 1 and recently published the first quarterly report on its work. It is made up of about 25 people in Brussels — led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) vice president Horst Reichenbach — and of 12 people in Athens. The Athens “antenna” is headed by Georgette Lalis, a Greek who has been a civil servant with the European Commission since 1981. She has held several executive positions but her last job in Brussels was as director of international affairs for energy. Between 2001 and 2004, she was CEO of the land registry (Ktimatologio SA).

Speaking to Kathimerini English Edition, Lalis distanced the role of the Task Force from that of the troika and identified a wide range of projects that it is cooperating on with Greek authorities, including a change to EU rules to provide Greek businesses with a working capital injection of 500 million euros.

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Money for nothing?

Graffiti by Absent

The decision this week by eurozone finance ministers to disburse their countries’ 5.8-billion-euro share of the sixth loan installment for Greece will no doubt have some people in Europe wondering whether good money is being thrown after bad. Two years into the crisis and Greece appears to be in a worse position than when it started despite receiving billions of euros to keep it afloat. Perhaps eurozone taxpayers would be justified in wondering whether their money is being frittered away.

The impression among some Europeans seems to be that Greece is taking the money and wasting it, just as it did with EU funds in the past. It’s very easy to see why some people might think this given that Greece’s deficit this year will be only marginally lower than in 2010 despite 12 months of austerity, its debt load heavier and many structural reforms still pending. When one of the members of the coalition government — New Democracy — opposes one of these reforms (the labor reserve scheme for public sector workers), Europeans could be forgiven for thinking that their taxes are being thrown down a bottomless pit.

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