Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on May 6, 2022 in Athens. THANASSIS STAVRAKIS / AP
Twelve years later, Greece emerges from the increased surveillance imposed by the European Commission, a “historic day for [le pays] and the Greeks,” announced Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in an address to the nation on Saturday, August 20.
“A 12-year cycle that has inflicted pain on citizens, stagnated economies and divided society is coming to an end,” Mitsotakis said. “A clear new horizon of growth, unity and prosperity is emerging for all,” he added.
The Greek government appealed to the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 2010 and found that their coffers were empty. Since then, three rescue plans totaling €289 billion have been launched by these creditors.
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The latter demanded austerity measures from Athens in order to improve the country’s public finances and bring money into the coffers. Pensions and wages were cut, taxes were increased, public employment was frozen, and the budgets of administrations, hospitals and all public institutions were cut.
“Greece today is another Greece”
In 2018, the third program ended, but the European Commission then launched a system of enhanced surveillance of the Greek economy to check the implementation of the reforms initiated and the continuation of privatizations. Athens has also committed to maintaining a primary surplus (before debt service) of 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).
“The end of the increased surveillance of Greece also marks the symbolic end of the most difficult period that the euro zone has experienced,” underlined the EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Paolo Gentiloni in a press release on Saturday. “Our strong collective response to the pandemic [de Covid-19] showed that Europe has learned the lessons of this crisis,” he continued.
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“Greece today is a different Greece,” the prime minister also assured. “We have strong growth and a significant drop in unemployment from 3% since last year and 5% since 2019,” he added.
The European Commission expects growth of 4% this year, while it is expected to increase to 2.6% on average in the euro zone. But unemployment remains one of the highest in the eurozone, the minimum wage one of the lowest and debt at 180% of GDP remains a drag on the country’s economy.