Greek minister blames EU for not averting debt crisis

By James Melik
Business Daily, BBC World Service

image captionGreece has secured a bailout of 130bn euros with strict austerity conditions

A Greek minister is blaming the European Union for allowing his country to slide into the debt crisis it is currently enduring.

"People should remember that European institutions have been monitoring the Greek economy since 2004, but even Greek citizens did not know the real figures of the Greek economy until 2009," says Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos.

"What happened between 2004 and 2009?" he asks.

"Either the EU was not doing the job correctly or it knew what the situation was and hid it," he says.

He says that the EU "teamed up with the Greek government who did not want the figures shown at the time".

The European Commission states that it has published macroeconomic forecasts twice a year since Greece first submitted its medium-term fiscal strategy in mid-2004.

Mr Yeroulanos maintains that this shows the weaknesses of the European Union.

"If we want a strong European Union, it needs to be able to monitor economies and see what the dangers are," he says.

"In order to have a stronger euro, European economies need to work in sync," he adds.


The words crisis and Greece have become synonymous - rather apt some might say, as the very term "crisis" is partly derived from the Ancient Greek "krisis", meaning decision.

However, it seems that even the latest rescue deal has not dampened fears about Greece's future.

The big questions remain - can it save itself from financial, social and political disaster?

Mr Yeroulanos says the government's first priority should be collecting taxes and making a dent in the mountain of debt.

"The most important thing in order to create a real dent into the debt that we have is to create jobs and to create growth," he says.

"What we need in terms of getting Greece out of the crisis is to invest, and we need to attract investment in the country. This is what we should be focused on right now," he asserts.

He believes that the recent bailout package is oriented towards settling the lack of confidence that exists within the markets.

"The most important thing in Greece right now is all the structural reform that is reducing bureaucracy, that is fighting against corruption, that is creating a business environment in which foreign investment can come in and flourish," he says.

"Once that happens, then you will start seeing the creation of jobs that will increase the revenues of the government and that will sustain the debt much more long term."

Commitment assured

Mr Yeroulanos says the financial package that Greece recently received from the EU focuses on what the EU's primary needs are, and not what will help the Greek economy grow in the long term.

"The Greek economy had not grown the way that a free economy should have grown - it was very much based on consumerism," he says.

Crisis jargon buster
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The best credit rating that can be given to a borrower's debts, indicating that the risk of borrowing defaulting is minuscule.

Some people have said that leaving the euro would help Greece solve its problems, and that devaluation would solve all the country's problems at one go.

As a minister of tourism, Mr Yeroulanos says it becomes all the more seductive because a devaluation of the currency would attract people to Greece.

"But we know very well that any positive results would be extremely short term," he says.

However much pain Greeks have to suffer, he is adamant that Greece has to stay in the eurozone.

"If Greece goes bankrupt, the cost of the Greek people will be a lot worse than what they are going through right now and that is something that we should be appreciating in our dealings with the eurozone," he says.

He also believes the cost for the eurozone will be huge as well if Greece defaults on its debts.

"The markets are looking as to whether we are committed to the eurozone or not. The more we give them reason to feel that we are not committed, the more they will be looking for the next weak link," he adds.

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