European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looked back on six milestones that “shaped the euro and European Union as we know it,” making particular reference to Greece and the Greek crisis.
In a speech titled “Building the euro: moments in time, lessons in history” at the European Central Bank Forum in Portugal marking 20 years of the Economic and Monetary Union, Juncker went back to the start of the Greek crisis in 2009, when “the government admitted that official statistics had misrepresented the real debt and deficit figures for years,” revealing “one of the biggest contradictions and absurdities of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union.”
"Member-states had been resisting tighter EU rules on statistics for years, prime ministers, finance ministers, governments, arguing that national sovereignty was more important than trustworthy and comparable data."
Juncker admitted to resisting calls for stricter statistics rules, saying that Eurostat had sent 10 delegations to Athens between 2004 and 2010 “with a view to improving the reliability of Greek statistics.”
“I voted against the proposal of the Commission to give more power and to give more independence to Eurostat. That was a major mistake. Would we have done the right thing, we would never have experienced the Greek crisis as we did,” Juncker said.
His fifth lesson, he said, came from the 2015 “fight to keep Greece in the euro.” It was, Juncker said, a “fight to overcome years of prejudices, ideologies and mismanagement.”
“Today, it is with pride that I can say that Greece is in its rightful place at the beating heart of Europe and of the euro,” Juncker added. “Together, we showed that the euro is irreversible.”