Athens still believes in the EU ” “

Premier Samaras: to overcome the crisis with sacrifice. "Europe works"

Antonis Samaras is suprising. He speaks about his Greece and about Europe with the patience of someone who wants to reason things out. He doesn’t hesitate to underline his Country’s flaws committed by “decade-long national governments” that underestimated the problems regarding national budget stability. He thanked all “EU Member Countries” for the “solidarity” shown to Athens over the past years. But above all her repeatedly underlined the “great sacrifice” made by his people since the outbreak of the deep economic recession that impoverished families, caused sky-rocketing unemployment rates, and set the grounds for the emergence of equally dangerous social and political instability. Thus from Strasbourg – where on January 15 he presented the program of EU six-month presidency assumed by Greece in 2014 – the Greek premier sent a message to all European citizens. “We are Europe: the historical heritage we carry within us, our numerous common roots. Europe is the future of the young generations, a future we are shaping today and that unites us more than anything else”. Cuts and sacrifices. The Greek premier, in his sixties, with a degree in Economics and an MA from Harvard, is the leader of New Democracy, a conservative party that obtained a relatively large majority in the June 2012 elections, after the previous ones held past May had proved the impossibility of creating a government with a stable parliamentary majority. Samaras is now at the lead of a government coalition that enjoys the support of Socialists and Democratic left parties, a sort of “holy alliance for national emergency” (opposed by right-wing populists of the Golden Dawn and to the left by Syriza radicalism) that handled financial bailout when the national budget was nearing default. The negotiations with the troika (Ue, Bce, Fmi) have been harsh, imposing cuts on the national accounts (the State TV was shut down and a privatisation process ensued), with salary cuts, redundancies, cuts in pensions and services for citizens. “A better Union”. “A year and a half ago we were experiencing a catastrophe: there were talks of the failure of Greece and the implosion of the eurozone. This did not happen”, said Antonis Samaras, “also thanks to the major sacrifices endured by the Greek population”. But “Greece has shown that Europe’s performance is good”. As soon as he entered the European Parliament the head of the Greek government sent a clear message: “United Europe works – he underlined -. We need more Europe and a better Europe” to address global challenges, from the economy to migration, from social changes to energy. All themes listed among the priorities of the presidency. With the crisis “the EU and the construction of the single currency have been put to the test”, he said, interrupted several times by the applause of MEPs. “Weaknesses and shortcomings in the adoption of the single currency have emerged. But so have our mistakes, caused by decades of governments “that did not consider the needs” of sound public accounts”. “it’s just the beginning”. Samaras recalled the “unprecedented sacrifices” made by his Country. “We suffered a drastic reduction of our GDP. With the crisis, Greek citizens lost an average of 38% of their purchasing power. Unemployment has risen from 7 to 27% in six years, and came close to 60% among young people”. “We therefore adopted a severe program of structural reforms. Greece – he added with pride – has acquired new competitiveness and in 2013 we finally had a primary surplus in the current account balance”. The prime minister did not hide the fact that the economic recovery is just at the beginning, but he showed confidence. “Greece is standing on its feet. And for this I thank the people of Europe, for the solidarity shown to us. Economic and social stability is making progress. We were the weak link in the EU and now we have assumed the presidency. We will do our best to accomplish this great task”. Pride and populisms… Questions increase before a politician that shows confidence – and admits it without a second thought – despite the indescribable problems to be addressed at international level, social unrest harboured in every corner of the country, attacks by the opposition that confide in strong affirmation in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament. “In Greece – Samaras daringly affirmed – pro-Europeanist parties will win”. But Greek people are poor, populism grows… “We are a wounded country – the premier said answering the journalists’ question -. In fact, we are traumatized. We are facing a major problem of social cohesion. However, I want to underline that we have recovered. And we are proud of it. Now growth and employment are our priorities. This is true for Greece and for the EU as a whole”.

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