Athens visit exposes divisions among EU Troika investigators

Greece protests Athens_Picnik.jpg

A two-day investigation by the European Parliament into the Troika’s handling of the Greek debt crisis ended last week in a clash with the Greek leftist opposition Syriza party, exposing divisions within the EU team, EURACTIV Greece reports.

In Athens, the two MEPs responsible for the Parliament inquiry, Austrian MEP Othmar Karas of the European People's Party (EPP) group and French MEP Liêm Hoang Ngoc of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), could only agree on the urgent need to bring more transparency and democratic accountability to the Troika.

The EU Parliament probe, launched in January, aimed to shed light on how the Troika – consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – managed the crisis in the four countries under its surveillance, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus.

Speaking in the Greek parliament on Wednesday (29 January), Karas claimed that the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, remained silent when asked about his party's proposals to guide Greece out of the crisis when the two met in Strasbourg on 11 December.

Syriza reacted angrily.  “These are false and slanderous allegations”, said party spokesperson Panos Skourletis, accusing Karas of taking sides with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The Austrian centre-right MEP reitered his statement about Tsipras during a press conference the following day (30 January) and defended himself, saying he was not in Athens to take part in internal politics. “I’m not here to evaluate the work of Mr Tsipras,” he said.

His colleague on the Parliament investigation team, Hoang Ngoc, centre-left, had a different view and attacked his colleague.

“It’s not true to say that Alexis Tsipras came in the meeting without a proposal. He submitted a document called ‘The Greek Rescue Plan’,” said Hoang Ngoc, showing the document to the audience.

“It’s a valuable text and we will use parts of it for the first draft of our report”, Hoang Ngoc said.

“Mr Karas maybe didn’t have the courage to reverse what he said about that meeting … but he has to publicly apologise,” Syriza added in a statement.

Divisions over the ‘timing’

Asked whether the European Parliament’s investigation into the Troika was “a bit late”, the two MEPs also diverged.

“I came for the first time to Athens on 21-22 March 2011. The European Parliament launched the procedure for the evaluation report and the enquiry committee regarding the analysis of the causes of the social and economic crisis. We proposed the submission of two reports regarding all the measures and initiatives that took place. So we were not late,” said Karas.

But Hoang Ngoc said the procedure was “too late” due to the EPP’s initial reservations.

“This report comes too late. Personally, my group called for a report very soon, at the beginning of the crisis,” he stressed.

“But in the conference of group presidents, the EPP was not in favour of an enquiry committee and we needed to negotiate this report for many years. Unfortunately this report comes just before the EU elections,” he continued.

Troika’s future

The Socialist MEP heavily criticised the Troika, repeating that the Troika had “no legal basis”.

>> Read: Socialist MEP: 'The Troika in its current form must be dismantled'

“The member states took decisions with the gun on the head”, he noted, adding that the ECB was wrong when it refused the restructuring of Greek debt from the beginning.

Hoang Ngoc also blamed the Commission for proposing such strict budgetary consolidation.

“The time of the Troika is over. The Troika must be dismantled and be replaced by mechanisms which are democratically controlled”, he added.

Karas took a more moderate tone, claiming that the Troika should complete its programmes.

“The Troika does not end today. Its model died. Nevertheless it has to complete its programmes”.

Four years after the start of Europe's debt crisis, the economic and financial committee of the European Parliament has opened an investigation into the role of the Troika – made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – in the debt crisis.

The Parliament probe aims to shed light over the Troika’s handling of the crisis, with a view to strengthening its democratic legitimacy and the involvement of the European Parliament in its work.

>> Read more: Parliament seeks tougher controls on Troika

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