Public Affairs Networking
02/03 – Brussels is applying double standard for Greece and France

The German Bundestag on Friday voted in favour of the 4-month extension of the bailout programme of Greece. 542 members of the German Bundestag voted in favour of a renewal of the aid package for Greece, while only 32 members voted against it. The Bundestag’s vote was received with mixed feelings and growing disconcert by German media. German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble said that Greece must meet its commitments, and that it would not be allowed to blackmail its eurozone partners.

In an interview with ARD, the German Minister of Finance stresses that Greece will face sanctions, should it not pay a first installment. The German Minister of Finance sent a strict message to the Greeks, Ethnos Tou Savvatou notes but, for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Schäuble has softened his attitude towards Greece, saying its new government needs “a bit of time” and appears to be able to work towards resolving its debt crisis. Joaquín Almunia, the Spanish European Commission Vice-President between 2010 and 2014, stresses, in a full-page El País op-ed piece, that the Eurogroup’s 11th-hour on the Greek deal has averted a euro break-up while forcing Syriza to govern in contradiction to some of its electoral promises.

The EU, Mr Almunia adds, should further coordinate its economic policymaking, set up a fiscal stabiliser and mutualise debt. Thus, the latest Greek crisis would be welcome if, once and for all, we take advantage of its lessons to build a firmer ground on which to make progress in European integration, he says.

As to EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, he denies, in an interview with LTV-1, that Greek debts might be written off, and stresses that the issue of Greece exiting the euro area is not seriously considered. In an interview with Handelsblatt, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis actually underlines that Greece does not want more money but investments for a recovery of its economy. He does not want more debt for his country, he stresses. The new agreement needs to be about a growth package for investments from the private sector instead of from European taxpayers, and Yanis Varoufakis hopes that Jean-Claude Juncker’s Investment Plan for Europe will help increase private investments.

In another interview with Ethnos Kyriakis, Yanis Varoufakis appears optimistic about the course of the Greek economy. For ARD, Brussels is applying a “double standard” when it comes to holding larger and smaller EU states to their reform promises, a comment echoed by La Première in Belgium. While the European Commission remained tough on Greece, it granted France another extension to bring its household in order. Eurogroup President Dijsselbloem however blames the European Commission, in an interview with The Financial Times, for having been typically more lenient towards Greece than its other creditors, saying that its intervention had short-circuited proper procedure and that he had been kept in the dark.

For ARD, though, the insistence that promises must be met in the case of Greece does not seem to apply to France. It cannot be denied that larger players in Europe are receiving preferential treatment, experts argue. Particularly problematic, ARD argues, is that former French Minister of Finance, European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, announced the extension. The European Commission, Les Echos notes, is doubtful of France’s ability to reduce its budget deficit to 3% of GDP by 2017. While Finance Minister Michel Sapin assured that the announced public spending cuts would allow France to meet EU requirements, European sources say that the €50 billion savings plan will not be sufficient. ©europeanunion2015

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