NEWS

Commission examining obstacles to Greece's work scheme for jobless families

The European Commission was attempting on Friday to untangle a bureaucratic jumble threatening to scupper the Greek government’s plan to provide, with the help of European Union funds, a short-term work scheme for members of some 400,000 families that do not have a single person in employment.

It emerged on Thursday that the Commission’s director general for employment, Koos Richelle, had informed Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis that Greece would not be able to use cash from its European Social Fund allocation to fund the program as the terms of the scheme were not compatible with the fund’s regulations.

However, it emerged yesterday that Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner Laszlo Andor had contacted his department’s general directorate to ask for the bureaucratic obstacles to be removed so Greece, where unemployment is currently just over 27.2 percent, can run the program.

The government hopes the program will provide short-term community work for members of the 400,000 jobless families. In plans that have already been unveiled, those over 25 will be paid 490 euros a month for participating in the scheme, while younger applicants will receive a monthly salary of 427 euros.

Richelle’s notification that the scheme could not go ahead came as a shock to the Greek government, which had already obtained the backing of its lenders, including the European Commission, for the program. The troika referred to the jobs scheme in the latest mid-term fiscal plan.

Greece’s representative at the European Commission, Maria Damanaki, said she contacted Andor about the matter yesterday. “I had asked Commissioner Andor’s services to give particular attention to the matter some time ago,” she said. “I had asked them to show understanding and flexibility.

“I regret that there appears to have been a delay. I am sure that the Commission will speed up the process and I will do whatever I can to ensure that the program goes ahead,” added Damanaki, who is commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries.

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