Schulz seeks Parliament role in Greek bailout evaluation

Alexis Tsipras and Martin Schulz [European Parliament]

Martin Schulz is exploring ways to include the European Parliament in assessing the Greek bailout, a source close to the president told EURACTIV Greece.

The involvement of the European Parliament was initially proposed on 19 August by the Greek premier, Alexis Tsipras, and his request was discussed in the Conference of Presidents at the beginning of September.

Currently, the so-called “Troika” (European Commission, ECB and IMF) are responsible for the evaluation of the Greek bailout

Tsipras’ proposal was fully backed by the S&D, GUE/NGL, ALDE, the Greens and the President of the European Parliament. The European People’s Party, and European Conservatives and Reformists finally agreed, too, despite being reluctant, initially.

“The President has been mandated by the Conference of Presidents to see, together with the European Commission,  how to involve the European Parliament to increase democratic accountability of the Greek programme,” EURACTIV Greece’s source said.

Asked about the progress of the discussions, the same source stressed that the request was being studied together with the European Commission, in order to see how it could be made operational.

“The European Parliament has always been pushing for a greater democratization of the European economic governance system, and Prime Minister Tsipras’ request falls into this push,” the source added.

Eurogroup is not legitimate

Dimitris Papadimoulis, an influential Syriza MEP, told EURACTIV Greece that such a proposal would increase the transparency of the Greek bailout assessment.

“(Until) now, everything has happened in closed-door discussions and in bodies, like Eurogroup, which have neither institutional legitimacy nor accountability,” he noted.

Papadimoulis continued, saying that it was in accordance with the investigation into the role of the Troika opened by the European Parliament four years after the start of Europe’s debt crisis.

>>Read: Athens visit exposes divisions among EU Troika investigators

German MEP Jo Leinen (SPD), who is also President of the European Movement International, told EURACTIV Greece that it was imperative that the European Parliament formed an integral part of eurozone governance, in order to assist member states in trouble.

“For far too long, the intergovernmental way has been allowed to dominate decisions in this area, putting into question the legitimacy of the process when technocratic decisions are taken without scrutiny by the European Parliament. It is our mandate and duty to enforce proper democratic accountability,” he stressed.

Leinen added that it should be ensured that the Parliament was consulted on future bailouts and “MEPs are able to scrutinize and, when necessary, reject decisions that affect the EU as a whole.”

Tsipras seeks friends

New Democracy MEP Maria Spyraki (EPP), told EURACTIV Greece that she found Parliament’s involvement in the Greek bailout positive.

She stressed, though, that the Commission, and not the Parliament, is the proper institution for the evaluation of the Greek bailout, as it has the know-how as well as the personnel to do so.

“MEPs aim to be informed about the developments of the Greek bailout, talk about the quarterly reports, and be able to submit proposals to the Greek government and its international creditors,” she noted.

Petros Fassoulas, the Secretary General of European Movement International, has doubts over Tsipras’s motives.

Asked to comment on Tsipras move, he said that it was probably founded more on self-interest than on principle.

“After the past few months’ brinkmanship, he has very few friends left in Brussels, and he sees the EP as a potential ally. The EP has long called to be involved in the bailouts and Mr Tsipras’ support will be viewed favourably.”

He added that the Greek premier wanted to elevate his anti-austerity campaign to the European level, and for that “he needs an institutional platform”.

“We now have open ears”

The “Syriza party has now its ears open in Brussels”, said Syriza MEP Papadimoulis, claiming that no one could blame Syriza for having a drachma plan.

He continued, saying that Tsipras’ personal goal was to broaden his alliances in Europe “as we have open issues ahead like the public debt”.

In a symbolic move, S&D chief Gianni Pittella was the first EU official the Greek premier decided to meet before the EU Council this week.

Pittella told EURACTIV Greece after the snap elections that Alexis Tsipras’ decision to forge a new coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks party was a “strategic mistake”.

>>Read: Syriza decision to partner with the Independent Greeks angers the S&D

According to S&D sources, Tsipras and Pittella talked about the new government in a “quite friendly environment”. Despite their differences, they decided “to boost their cooperation”. 

"In the conference of presidents I asked Mr Schulz to talk about to Mr Juncker to make it happen. The legal basis already exists. It's a matter of democratizing the procedures. It is a way to overcome the Troika and finally have the most representative EU body involved in Greek bailout's evaluation," S&D chief Gianni Pittella told EURACTIV Greece.

 “I believe it is a very good idea that the European Parliament will be involved in the monitoring of the Greek reforms. The ALDE Group was the Group to propose it just before the summer holidays. We are delighted that PM Tsipras has agreed to cooperate”, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt told EURACTIV.

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