ECONOMY

Greeks trust EU to tackle joblessness

Brussels – Greeks place their hopes for the fight against unemployment squarely in the European Union’s hands, according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted on behalf of the European Commission. According to to the survey’s results, more than nine out of ten Greeks – or, more precisely, 94 percent of respondents – consider the fight against unemployment a top priority. Ninety percent of Europeans agree. Moreover, a large majority of Greeks do not trust their own government to fight unemployment; 62 percent believe it is better to leave the initiative to European supranational institutions and only 37 percent believe that it would be better to seek solutions at a local level. Only Italians and Spaniards are slightly less trusting of their government’s ability to solve this particular problem. At 9.9 percent of the workforce, Greece’s unemployment has declined from a high of 12 percent in early 2000, but remains the second highest among EU members, behind permanent leader Spain. EU citizens, as a whole, are evenly divided on whether to seek solutions to unemployment on a national and supranational level. Respondents from seven countries each, prefer one or the other approach, while Luxembourgers are evenly divided. Greeks also fear the consequences of the EU’s expansion, in which eight out of the ten new members expected to join in May 2004 come from Eastern Europe. The number of Greeks believing that the EU’s expansion will result in higher unemployment (53 percent) is easily the highest in the EU. Only the Germans come close. It is interesting to note that the expansion itself, besides being a cause of worry to Germans and Greeks, hardly registers with the rest. Among 15 priorities listed in the survey – respondents were allowed to choose more than one – the EU’s expansion came dead last. European Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou has prepared a report on employment-boosting strategies, which will be presented at the EU’s interim summit, in Brussels, in March. Diamantopoulou is expected to call for specific targets on women’s employment and to also focus on combating early retirement.