Officially, it’s a “stability support programme”. Concretely, it’s a (new) extended hand to Community Europe to enable Greece’s recovery from a recession swamp and financial instability, which over the past years has largely decreased Greek families’ purchasing powers. On 20 August, after a rough political process that lasted a month and a half, the Juncker Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Athens envisaging an 86-billion-euro worth three-year program following a decision of the heads of State and Government of the Eurozone. In return, Greece will have to implement “the reforms critical to tackle fundamental socio-economic challenges”, specified in the same memorandum of understanding and negotiated in July by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. According to the Commission, “Following months of intense negotiations, the programme will help to lift uncertainty, stabilise the economic and financial situation and will assist Greece in its return to sustainable growth based on sound public finances, enhanced competitiveness, a functioning financial sector, job creation and social cohesion”. Almost a mirage in a country plagued by unemployment, blemished by increasing poverty, and once again called to the polls as a result of Tsipras’ resignations aimed at obtaining a strong mandate from voters, necessary to undertake “tears and blood” reforms, considered the only way out to avoid default and in time, to get back on its feet. The EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the known and hated “troika”) will continue being in charge of overseeing the reforms’ implementation consisting in privatizations, pensions reform, streamlining the public administration, increasing VAT, cutting privileges and tax exemptions, placing the European banking system under protection. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, who signed the MoU on behalf of the Commission, said: “With the support of the programme the Greek authorities have an opportunity to restore mutual trust, financial stability and confidence, which are preconditions for Greek economy to grow again. Now it is important to swiftly implement the agreed reforms. This will allow Greece to restore the competitiveness and to ensure sustainable economic growth”. Notwithstanding rather favourable official statements, the improvement of Greece’s situation is bound to the implementation of reforms. Indeed, “an assessment of the social impact of the program”, published by the Commission on the same day of the signing of the Protocol, cautions: “If implemented fully and timely, the measures foreseen in the programme will help Greece return to stability and growth in a financially and socially sustainable way, and will contribute to meet the most pressing social needs and challenges”. The need for cross compliance is evident. The Commission equally highlighted the goals, which financial aids to Greece must focus on in the next three years. Such as: “targeting savings in areas which do not directly affect the wallets of ordinary citizens, such as reduced defence expenditure, or by addressing inefficiencies in many areas of public spending”; “challenging vested interests, such as phasing out favourable tax treatments for ship-owners or farmers, or a myriad of exemptions, e.g. for some islands on VAT rates, or of unjustified subsidies”; “fighting corruption, tax evasion and undeclared work”. Under a positive angle: “phasing in a guaranteed minimum income scheme and providing universal health care”; “ensuring that the effort required from everyone is proportionate to their income”; “supporting the role of the social partners and the modernisation of the collective bargaining system” (namely, a reform of the job market). It should also be remembered that on July 15th the Commission had given the green light to a specific “employment and growth program” with a 35 billion budget to “invest in people and enterprises” by 2020. It cannot be expected that Greece’s problems will disappear in a few months’ time, but it can be said that European solidarity has finally been expressed to the benefit of the future of the Mediterranean Country, which is now responsible for grasping all opportunities to exit the tunnel.
Green light during the summer to a 86-bln loan to enable Greece's recovery. Now the ball is in Greece's court