As EU leaders gather in Brussels to solve the Greek crisis, Athens and Brussels should share the blame for having let the country fall down its slippery slope. Now a new social contract is needed between the EU and its citizens to restore trust, writes former Greek MEP Yiannis Roubatis.
Yiannis Roubatis is a former Greek MEP from the Party of European Socialists.
"EU leaders are meeting once again in Brussels in an effort to see what could be done to [help] Greece face its huge debt crisis. Things don't look good, neither from Athens nor from Brussels.
In Athens, the austerity policies implemented – the spending cuts in state expenditures, the ever-increasing redundancies in the public sector, the cuts in pensions, the rationalisation of spending in education and health, the hundreds of thousands of redundancies in the private sector – have not brought in more revenues. In fact, revenues fell in the first five months of 2011. About 18 billion euros were collected, instead of 20.5 billion, and now the spectre of insolvency looms above the country.
What's more, Greek society – [which] has endured all these cuts with an amazing maturity – is beginning to unravel. Every day, tens of thousands of citizens are taking to the streets of major cities, demonstrating peacefully against the heavy price they are [being] asked to pay for the mistakes of the political elite that for the last [few] decades has not told them the truth.
In Brussels, it seems that they have finally understood that the Greek crisis is far more serious than originally thought and that the financial collapse of a member of the euro zone would have much broader consequences than just for the citizens of the country involved.
A clarification is necessary for things not to be misunderstood: most Greek citizens fully understand that they share a large part of the blame for the calamities that have fallen on their heads. They have demonstrated that they are willing to pay a large part of the price for their country to come out of its present quagmire. But not the entire price.
There are some responsibilities that fall onto Brussels. These have to be understood so that the European Union could come out stronger when all this comes to an end.
José Manuel Barroso, Joaquin Almunia and some of their other colleagues in the European Commission must at some point re-think what they and the large bureaucracy they oversee did wrong over these years to slowly push Greece [to] the present situation.
From 2004 on, both Barroso and Almunia were all too ready to praise the policies of the Greek governments. They lauded the previous finance ministers for their 'sound policies'.
When subsidies financed by tax-paying citizens' money violated procedures and good practices, they were not there to do their job. Where were the appropriate Commission authorities when repeatedly procedures were violated, when quality control on projects financed by the Cohesion Fund was absent, when fiscal policies agreed on in summits were ignored?
OLAF states in its 'Mission' that 'the European Institutions have a duty to guarantee, with regard to the taxpayer, the best use of their money and in particular to fight as effectively as possible against fraud. For this reason, the protection of the financial interests of the Community has become one of the major priorities for the European Institutions'.
Why did this not happen in the case of Greece?
I do not know what the future will hold for Greece. For the present, all looks very gloomy. However, being a convinced and determined federalist, I believe that in the end the ideas of the founding architects of European integration will help us overcome this European crisis.
A new social contract will have to be written between the European Union and its citizens, one that will emphasise both fiscal responsibilities and social solidarity."