Udo Bullmann: Greece is on a good track

Greece is on a good track, Udo Bullmann, head of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) and estimated that Greece’s exit from the third and final programme will increase confidence in the country.

“It can hardly be overstated what has been achieved especially during this last programme. The Greek economy was once seen as a hopeless case by many if not most analysts. Today, I am not aware of anybody who you would want to take seriously who does not acknowledge that Greece is on a good track,” he added.

Bullmann expressed his certainty that Greece’s return to the market will be smooth and added that the Greek government has a large amount of cash that allows it to determine the ideal timetable for returning to the capital markets.

“I have full trust in Finance Minister Tsakalotos and his team making the right decisions at the right time to manage this successfully,” he underlined.

He also stressed that the enhanced surveillance mechanism agreed in the Eurogroup does not mean under any circumstances supervision; on the contrary, the Greek authorities will have full independence in the process and autonomy in planning the right policies.

Under this mechanism, the European Commission will report on the situation of the Greek economy to the Eurogroup every three months and there will be further monitoring of the economic and political situation in Greece but this is really a totally different thing than the adjustment programmes, he added.

The full exclusive interview given by the head of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament to ANA’s Evangelia Ntziouni is given below:

Name Agreement between Athens-Skopje:

1- You are a supporter of the Agreement. How can you, through your Parliamentary Group policy, support this Agreement between Athens and Skopje?

The Agreement is one of the few recent good developments or even success stories from the region. Our Group has always supported that both sides would find a compromise and it took two progressive leaders to finally conclude it after more than 25 years of disputes. We have already on many occasions welcomed the agreement and will continue to hope for the ratification in both Parliaments and in FYROM’s Referendum. I am pretty sure that the upcoming EP resolution will mirror this.

2- Is this agreement somehow a sign that Europe is moving towards ever-better living through its diversity?

It is a clear sign that compromises and difficult decisions from both sides of different disputes (for e.g. also Kosovo and Serbia, Bosnian internal situation etc.) are these that move the countries in Europe forward. The future North Macedonia was rewarded already for the name Agreement by opening the accession talks next year, which also brings more investors and stability to the country. So it is clear that multilateralism, diversity and not nationalism are those that bring prosperity.

3- In both Greece and FYROM, part of the citizens reacted negatively and with great vigour to the Agreement, each side defending its national identity. What would you say to them if you had the opportunity to discuss with them?

I would tell them that they are free to express their opinion as every citizen in a democratic country and that is their right. However, they could also think of their country’s and region’s future and weigh in all the arguments. Does it really have an impact on the life of a Greek citizen when their neighbouring country is called North Macedonia? Or would it be better to have next to you a friend and an ally, instead of having a feud with your neighbour? These are the questions Greek citizens should ask themselves when they think of the pros and cons of the name Agreement.

And does it really bring prosperity to FYROM citizens if they are isolated in the region by not being invited to EU accession talks or to NATO because they are not able to solve a dispute with their neighbouring country? A dispute that other countries do not really understand. These are the questions the FYROM citizens should ask themselves, when they go to referendum on the name Agreement.

Migration

1. On immigration and in view of the European Council, you have underlined in an earlier statement that immigration is not an isolated incident and therefore the Council does not have the time to postpone this issue. However, at the last European Council held in late June, the expected solution and agreement for negotiating with Parliament and settling the reform of the Dublin Regulation did not succeed. How do you analyse developments?

Last June European Council was a very important summit, raising political tensions and citizens’ expectations to very high levels. There were high tensions between Member States, simply forgetting about the true European spirit, while expectations were running high on the need for concrete European solutions that would aim at managing migration flows in a responsible way, not simply closing down our borders to the people in need of protection. In an open letter, together with my Liberal and Greens counterparts, we asked President Tusk to show leadership, unity but most importantly, responsibility. We asked him to use his role and have the courage to put the reform of the Dublin system on the European council agenda. We asked him to have the bold vision in finding the right ways to unblock the deadlock. Instead, what we witnessed as outcome, was a declaration designed so that each Member State could return to its country victoriously, but in the end and again, nothing happened towards delivering a credible solution. And this happened simply because the reform of the asylum system, already agreed by a broad majority in the European Parliament, was not even included on the agenda of the leaders. What we saw last week, was not real European negotiation and coordination, but mere individual initiatives steered by a number of leaders, trying to reach an agreement among “the willing”. And that is not enough, simply because it is not an EU solution!

2. After the last European Council, what is the future of the Dublin Treaty Reform?

We will continue to fight for the reform of the Dublin Treaty, as we will do for the rest of the proposals forming the big package reforming the European Asylum System. The Council simply cannot turn a blind eye to an adopted position of the European Parliament, because it would mean turning a blind eye to all the European citizens’ voices. We want to see Europe move away from an intergovernmental stance that hiccups in search of compromises! An intergovernmental Europe that sets first its prejudged conclusions, while only after to seek the arguments in its defense.

Economy

In previous statements, you have said that Greece is recovering its forces again. However, you have underlined the need to achieve sustainable growth in Greece and the Eurozone. Greece is about to come out on the markets in August, do you think it will have a direct impact on the Greek economy?

I am sure that the Greek exit from the third and final adjustment programme will further boost confidence in the country. It can hardly be overstated what has been achieved especially during this last programme. The Greek economy was once seen as a hopeless case by many if not most analysts. Today, I am not aware of anybody who you would want to take seriously who does not acknowledge that Greece is on a good track. Despite this rather positive assessment of the current situation, I warn against complacency – both in Greece and in Europe. Greece will most certainly have to continue to work hard to preserve the positive momentum. The same is true for the EU institutions. If we do not finally make much more substantial progress on the reform of Economic and Monetary Union, for instance by developing a fiscal capacity and a European Monetary Fund, we fail to draw the right conclusions from the recent Eurozone crisis. The Eurozone is still far from being a driver of sustainable development in Europe and we cannot afford to stop working on its architecture until it is. Anything else would be catastrophic in times of rampant inequalities and the rise of populism and illiberalism.

The emergence of a state in the markets implies the possibility of lending. Given the imbalance that has been created in the past with the financial system, in the case of Greece, is August 2018 a new opportunity or a new risk?

I am very confident that the return to public debt markets will go smoothly. As said, the Greek economy is on a good track and trust in institutions is – rightly – building up. Accordingly, I do not see why markets should get the jitters. The Greek government also disposes of a sizeable cash buffer that allows it to define the ideal timing for the return to capital markets. I have full trust in Finance Minister Tsakalotos and his team making the right decisions at the right time to manage this successfully.

The fact that Greece comes out of the markets means the end of the memorandum, but does it automatically mean the end of supervision?

The Eurogroup and the Greek authorities have agreed a mechanism of enhanced surveillance. As part of this mechanism, the European Commission will report on the state of the Greek economy to the Eurogroup once every quarter. So of course there will be further monitoring of the economic and political situation in Greece. And yes, there is also an agreement on the direction that future reforms and policies should take. But this is really an entirely different thing than what the adjustment programmes used to be. Unlike in the past, the Greek authorities now have full ownership of the process and autonomy in designing the right policies. It is also important to note that this is no special arrangement for Greece. In the Economic and Monetary Union, the economies of all Member States are constantly monitored and policy changes subject to scrutiny.

“Greece comes out of the markets” is tantamount to “Greece comes out of the crisis”?

I think that the worst of the crisis, fortunately, is long over. Returning to the markets is yet another step toward the full normalisation of the situation in Greece. But to continue in working hard on modernising the Greek economy and the Eurozone is further needed. It is not enough to end one crisis. We also need to prevent future crises and finally develop a model for European society and economy that creates sustainable equality for all and respects the boundaries of the planet. There is still a long way to go before we are there and I can only urge all sides to come together and work on this project to make progress as soon as possible.

Source ANA-MPA
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