Social attacks continue in Greece despite end of enhanced EU financial surveillance

Social attacks continue in Greece despite end of enhanced EU financial surveillance

On August 20, the so-called enhanced financial surveillance of Greece by European Union (EU) lenders ended. After 12 years of austerity dictates and strict control of the Greek budget, the finance ministers of the eurozone countries and EU Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni voted in favour of this step.

Greek and European politicians alike exceeded each other with their excessive flattery and promises. An “historic day for Greece and all Greeks,” proclaimed Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the right-wing conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND), predicting a new beginning “full of growth, unity and prosperity.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Sept. 10 [AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos]

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that Greece could now close this chapter “thanks to the determination and resilience” of its people and “look to the future with confidence.”

To decipher the phrases, replace “prosperity” with poverty, “confidence in the future” with fear of job loss, “resilience” with suffering and hardship. What is being celebrated here as a chapter closed and an historic new beginning means the Greek population faces the continuation of austerity and aggravation of the social crisis over further decades.

The cost of the loans of almost €289 billion that Greece received from the EU in three “memorandum” programs in recent years was paid by the working class with income losses of 25 percent, mass unemployment and pension cuts. With public debt at 189.3 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2022, the country remains at the top of the EU debt table. According to Eurostat, Greece recorded the highest youth unemployment rate (28.6 percent) and the second highest unemployment rate (11.4 percent) after Spain in the month of July.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the EU, under German leadership, has used Greece as the spearhead of its austerity policies. Within a few years, with the help of the trade unions and pseudo-left parties, led by the Syriza government (2015-2019), it broke the strong resistance of the working class and lowered living standards to the level of a developing country. In response to the pandemic and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, European governments are building on the Greek experience and intensifying social attacks across Europe.

What does the end of “enhanced surveillance” mean? The mechanism had been adopted in 2018 for a period of four years following Greece’s formal exitfrom the so-called “bailout” programs of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB)—the “Troika” for short. Greece had to continue to pass regular quarterly budget audits by creditors in order to obtain debt relief and access to the capital market. Now, far from ending this scrutiny, there will only be a transition to “simple surveillance,” with semi-annual rather than quarterly reviews.

Like other European countries, including Ireland, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal, Greece will remain under EU control until 75 percent of its loans are paid off. According to the Greek newspaper Ethnos that would be in 2059, following current calculations, and as late as 2070 according to other sources. That means that for up to 50 more years, the EU’s dictates will continue, inevitably involving austerity measures and privatization.

The latest move gives Greece greater budgetary freedom, but it will not be to the benefit of the working class. Above all, the Greek elite—as well as Europe’s corporations and banks—have in mind incentives for investments and lucrative business deals. Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras stressed that the new regulation would strengthen the country’s position on the world market and make it more attractive to investors.

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