Former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says in an interview with Kathimerini that Greece could have been expelled from the eurozone in 2015 if he had not stepped in to smooth out tensions between Athens and other member states.
Discussing the Greek crisis, Juncker said that several governments believed it was not the role of the European Commission to be active in resolving disputes with Athens. “I really do think in all modesty that without me Greece would have left the euro area in 2015,” he says, adding that pressure was “huge” from “more than one government” to let Greece go.
Juncker says that the prevailing sentiment among the member states in 2015 was that Greece should take a ‘time out’ from the common currency, adding that he “never thought this would be the right path.”
“The moment you are out, you are out forever,” he said.
Asked whether it was a wise decision to involve the International Monetary Fund in all three bailouts, he said he was opposed to the idea in 2010, arguing that if California faced economic woes it would ask the US federal government for help and not the IMF.
Juncker said that Greece came closest to Grexit in the first half of 2015, when then-prime minister Alexis Tsipras arrived in Brussels with “strange ideas” of what should be done, insisting on the social dimension of the crisis.
Concerning the deal between Athens and Skopje to resolve the decades-old dispute on the name of North Macedonia, Juncker said he told Tsipras how important such a development would be for the whole of Europe, noting that the leftist leader “delivered against the opposition from New Democracy and reactions in northern Greece.”