MEPs herald end to troika, look to debt restructuring

Members of a European Parliament committee investigating the role of the troika and the impact of its policies in Greece on Thursday heralded the end of an “interim” institution, to be replaced by a “more democratically accountable and transparent” inspection process, and underlined the need for debt relief if Greece is to emerge from a spiral of austerity.

Wrapping up a two-day fact-finding visit to Athens, where they met with government and opposition officials, the seven MEPs said the troika had been “necessary and right” for Greece at the outset but that “irresponsible decisions” were taken in the process with painful social repercussions.

“We need more transparency, more democratic legitimacy,” Othmar Karas, the conservative Austrian MEP leading the inquiry, told a press conference. “All instruments of the EU must be based on community law,” he added.

Another delegate, French Socialist MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc, was more categorical, declaring that there was “no legal basis for the actions of the troika.” “The time of the troika is over,” he said. Hoang Ngoc added that the ratio of Greece’s debt to its gross domestic product has grown, meaning a debt restructuring was all but inevitable. “Without a debt restructuring, Greece won’t have the room to maneuver for less austerity,” he said, noting that a restructuring could take the form of extended maturities or lower interest rates on loans.

The French MEP also contradicted comments in Parliament on Wednesday by his colleague Karas, according to which leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras had failed to come up with any substantial proposals during a meeting in Strasbourg in December. Hoang Ngoc said Tsipras “provided us with a detailed economic and social analysis, as well as policy proposals,” adding that he welcomed “the collaboration of Mr Tsipras.”

SYRIZA called on Karas to make a public apology and, during the press conference, the Austrian MEP appeared to pull back from his earlier remarks. “I’m not investigating Tsipras, I’m investigating the troika,” he said.