NEWS

Greece attains goals at EU summit

Greece achieved two of its main goals at the European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels which ended yesterday, as it was agreed that a permanent financial support mechanism would be set up for troubled member states and that those countries exceeding their debt and deficit limits would not lose their Union voting rights. Prime Minister George Papandreou hailed both developments as great successes for Greece and a vindication of the position that he has held since his country became mired in economic crisis. Papandreou was particularly pleased with the rejection of Germany’s proposal that EU members who do not keep to the limits of 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on debt and 3 percent of GDP on deficit should have their right to vote in council meetings withdrawn. «I not only rejected such a possibility, I rejected the issue as being a matter of discussion with fellow leaders,» Papandreou said after the summit. The Greek premier, who described the proposal by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as «unacceptable,» was at the forefront of a group of leaders who eventually accounted for 22 of the 27 member states that felt the idea of voting rights on all issues being withdrawn for fiscal transgressions was too harsh. «We would not have a say or a right to make a decision on an issue of security and defense that related to our country,» said Papandreou. «We would not have the chance to respond to decisions that affect Greek farmers, shipping, our islands and our relations with neighboring countries. That’s why we fought against this and managed to prevent it from happening.» Papandreou, however, hailed the fact that the EU leaders had decided to back the idea of a formal support system, which will include private investors, for EU members that run into economic problems. The prime minister stressed that such a mechanism would be in operation from 2013, when Greece will exit its current credit agreement with the EU and the International Monetary Fund. He suggested that by then Athens would not need the financial assistance of its European partners. The European Commission will now examine what changes to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty are needed to accommodate the new proposals and the bloc’s leaders will give their final approval when they meet in December.