NEWS

PM says EU also to blame

A day after the European Union provided Greece with political support in its bid to rescue its public finances, George Papandreou yesterday accused Brussels of being «timid,» lacking coordination and of using Greece as a scapegoat to hide the 27-nation bloc’s own failings. Speaking to his Cabinet after returning from an EU leaders’ summit with plenty of encouraging words but no specific financial commitment from the other members, Papandreou suggested that Brussels should also share some responsibility for Greece’s perilous predicament. «Greece is not a political or economic superpower to fight this battle alone,» he said. «In the last few months of this crisis, the EU gave its political support but in the battle against the impressions and the psychology of the market, it was at the very least timid.» Papandreou’s government has pledged to cut the public deficit from 12.7 percent of GDP last year to 8.7 percent this year but he said that the country’s problems had been compounded by «multiple voices» within the EU and «speculation about our country that created the impression of imminent collapse.» The prime minister then turned on the previous New Democracy government, accusing it of covering up the true state of the Greek economy. The conservatives had projected a 3.7 percent deficit for 2009 last spring, several months before PASOK came to power. But Papandreou said it had been remiss of Brussels not to double-check the figures and now put all the blame on Greece. «There was quite a big effort in the European Union to hide their responsibilities behind Greece,» he said. «The Union, the Commission, even Eurostat had the responsibility to be vigilant and to point out to the previous government the slippery slope it was on.» The premier said that the lack of a coordinated response by the EU to Greece’s problem had led to Greek bond spreads reaching a 10-year high and the euro coming under pressure from speculators. «There was a lack of coordination between the various bodies of the Union, the Commission, the member states and the European Central Bank. There were even differing opinions within those bodies.»