OPINION

A bitter lesson for Greece

Tough bargaining and even public scuffles among the leaders of EU member states are not an uncommon sight on the eve of important decisions. Nor are they necessarily reprehensible, for they are often triggered by substantial differences. In most cases, however, the tension is caused for the wrong reasons. The 2007-2013 budget is now the hot potato in the hands of European leaders. The budget row which emerged at the ongoing European Union summit in Brussels is about the distribution of community funds in the years to come. But the confrontation is also a sign that the European project has hit a wall. Most governments prove very inflexible when the distribution of European funds and subsidies is at stake. They chant patriotic slogans and dig in their heels. By contrast, when the EU begs for measures to enhance growth and so needs more money for the common budget, the governments of member states appear less enthusiastic. Member states are very assertive about distribution of community funds but rarely push for measures that would help accelerate the growth of the European economy. They seek an ever-larger slice of the pie but barely try to make that pie bigger. The situation with the local economy is not much different. Greek governments are keen to employ easy triumphalisms for winning a large chunk of EU funds but after that fail to convincingly explain their failure to absorb a large part of the funds. The Greek governments try hard to get their hands on EU funds but then are conspicuously absent from the real battle of growth, which presupposes a timely and effective investment of that money. Greece should have learned its bitter economy lesson. Over the past 10 years, the EU has approved massive financial support for the growth of the Greek economy. Less – albeit significant – funds have been invested in the country while the impact on real economic growth is debatable. We should keep in mind that no country ever managed to sustain long-term economic growth thanks to outside help or support without achieving a high competitiveness rate.