Tuesday 30 June 2015

The EU is not imposing "harsh austerity"

Here follows a partial transcript of President Jean-Claude Juncker's press conference on Greece

This is not a stupid austerity package. Some of the measures of course will hurt in the near term. But the package goes well beyond fiscal measures and proposes a clear way forward. Moreover, this package lowers the fiscal targets and gives more time to the Greek government to achieve them.  

Compared to the previous deal, the one we had, it is more than 12 billion EUR less savings that are requested from Greece in the coming years. And in fact the Greek government has already agreed to this and welcomed it. Although we had to discuss in a very intense manner amongst institutions as you know.

By the way, fiscal consolidation does not mean austerity: it means keeping public finances in control while boosting opportunities for jobs and growth. Many Member States have even higher fiscal targets despite having lower levels of debt.

There are, as I said, no wage cuts in this package. This was never, never ever on the table. What is on the table is a proposal to modernise the wage grid of the public sector. And, for the private sector, we have agreed to review collective bargaining practices. Our only request has been that this should be done in line with the best European practices in cooperation with the institutions and ILO which are the specialists when it comes to this question.

There are no cuts in the level of pensions in this package. Even the Greek government agrees that the Greek pension system urgently needs further reform to be sustainable. It should be fairer so that everyone contributes to the welfare system according to their means. There is a menu of measures to achieve that, starting with removing incentives for early retirement. The government could also substitute measures with alternatives ones as long as the numbers add up.

I am repeating this sentence: The government could also substitute measures with alternatives ones as long as the numbers add up.
The sentence highlighted in red is to denote the role of international bodies in critical EU decisions. As a rule, the EU adopts UN International Labour Organisation recommendations verbatim. One of the many top tables that shape our governance over and above the EU. They are nether harsh austerity measures, nor is it an EU framework per se. Make of that what you will.

In essence, the EU is asking for very little. What we see in the media is political narrative and theatre.

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