Greek opposition rebukes Commission over praise for Tsipras government

Commissioner Andrus Ansip [European Parliament]

Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy, felt “surprised” yesterday (11 May) when European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip praised the Tsipras government for improvements it has made to the economy.

The conclusion of the second review of Greece’s third bailout has sparked intense controversy among politicians in Athens.

The government blames New Democracy for attempting to block it and claims that now that the official conclusion of the review is close the “snap election narrative” is over.

On the other hand, the opposition accuses the leftist government of signing another bailout without getting additional money and imposing more austerity.

Speaking at Greek House yesterday, European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, congratulated the Greek government, saying, “Greece has shown positive progress and we should recognise this.”

“These have been challenging times for Greece and the country has done a lot. Today we see a noticeable trend of recovery for Greece, although a lot more work is still needed,” Ansip stressed, adding that the EU executive has stood by Greece through difficult moments.

“The Commission encourages the leadership of the country to stay on this course to achieve sustainable growth,” Ansip insisted.

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New Democracy “surprised”

This statement elicited sharp criticisms from New Democracy MP Anna Michel Asimakopoulou.

“We were surprised for your positive comments on the Greek economy performance, I just hope while you are here in Greece you will be able to see the reality at first hand,” Asimakopoulou said.

Syriza lawmakers reacted to her statement and then Ansip turned to his assistants asking what the controversy was about.

“I feel I do not have the full attention of the vice-president […] would you like me to speak in English?” she ironically asked Ansip switching into English.

Ansip is reported to have felt uncomfortable and did not answer back.

Asimakopoulou continued, saying that the Commissioner, who holds the Digital Economy portfolio, could not “congratulate” the government for performance on digital issues. “The country is lagging behind […] it ranked 26 in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI),” she noted.

Ansip replied that Greece had improved its performance last year by 8.6% and had the 4th best performance at EU level.

In a recent interview with EURACTIV Greece, Asimakopoulou said that not a single step was taken to deepen the digital strategy as “there is not even a new project that is mature to go ahead”.

Asimakopoulou’s statement prompted Syriza to respond, with Digital Policy Secretary-General Giannis Tafillis stating, “It is  hypocritical that those who led the country to the present situation (are asserting) the role of the honourable one.”

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The Commission’s position is clear was informed that the Commission’s intention was to have a positive tone following years of effort, as well as for keeping Greece motivated.

EU sources stressed that the Commission’s position was also provided by Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who said, “I really hope and expect that we can get an agreement on the Eurogroup on 22 May. We have dedicated a lot of energy on that. Obviously, the climate of the negotiations has changed and I again, welcome the staff level agreement which was reached after the last visit of the mission in Athens.”

The French Commissioner added that he sounded optimistic in recent years about Greece and always thought that Grexit should not happen.

“It did not happen. Now, today, I am confident that we will go to the next step which is the successful completion of the review and a global agreement, which will put at last the Greek economy on track for solid and long-lasting growth because that is simply what the Greek people expects, what they need and that’s what they deserve,” Moscovici emphasised.

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The British exit from the European Union will have consequences for the Greek economy, especially on tourism, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos said on Monday (8 May).

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