OPINION

Myth of ‘European Simitis’ debunked

The report by the European Commission on Greece’s violation of the European Union’s fiscal rules between 1997 and 2003 also effectively debunks the myth of the strong prestige and excellent relations that former prime minister Costas Simitis enjoyed in the Union. The EU’s executive arm is accusing the now-departed Socialist governments of not having complied with European recommendations to change Greece’s financial course, despite the fact that the country’s economy was already being closely monitored since 1997 and was subject to more EU inspections than any other state in the 15 member bloc. Even though the European recommendations were clear enough, Greek officials either did not implement them or did so only in part, the report says. The report criticizes the reformist members of the PASOK government of misleading EU officials, adding that the oral or written statements produced by officials in Athens were not always accurate. The report invokes the revised numbers that were recently revealed by the self-imposed audit of Greece’s public finances. The Commission report is posed in diplomatic language, which was to be expected, although its political message is clear: The Commission regarded Simitis and his reformist aides as people who fudged economic data, discarded recommendations made by the Union and deceived Brussels when asked for clarifications. So much for the prestige enjoyed by Simitis, «the European leader.» The Commission goes so far as to voice some self-criticism for not having notified the other European governments before it announced its decision to accept Greece into the eurozone, thereby raising the question of whether Athens deserved a green light to join by merit of its true economic performance. Simitis’s deeds had, in fact, raised suspicion and mistrust among our European peers. And yet the propaganda apparatus of the Socialists and their affiliated media did not hesitate to portray him as a leader who had cultivated a strong enough image among the European governments as to be considered a candidate for the Commission presidency. Too bad for the reformists, all myths eventually crash on the rocks of reality.