Our battle in Europe

European Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet and European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, a Socialist who brazenly declares his aim as convincing governments to take harsh measures, have advised against securitizations proposed by the Greek government to avoid imposing new taxes. That is their job. The question, however, is what we are doing here in Greece, which is not a banana republic and where the elected government has a mandate to tidy up public finances without undermining the social welfare system or making the people’s lives even harder with new taxes. So we are to do what most of the EU member states with their public deficits of higher than 3 percent of their GDP are doing. Nearly all are planning to securitize debts – that is, to allow tax money owed to the state to be counted as revenues before it is actually collected (and this is not PASOK’s creative accounting since the debts are carried over from the past and verified as existing). Apart from Italy and Portugal, securitizations are planned by Belgium, Germany and Hungary, among others. The governments of these countries are protecting their people and their political rivals would not dream of accusing them of getting reprimanded by Trichet or Almunia because of their difference of opinion. These Third World tactics we see in Greece are foreign to Europe, where negotiation and occasionally conflict with the Brussels bureaucracy is common practice. The Greek government will fight for its 2006 budget without adding any new burdens and it will win. At any rate, Almunia has already accepted securitizations for 2005. According to Economy Ministry sources, securitization is in line with EU regulations. After all, member states are not soldiers taking commands but equal EU partners, struggling for their national interests.