EU authorities urge Greek leaders not to turn their backs on bailout deal


The commission insists the rescue plan remains in place and has urged Greece to act responsibly, writes ARTHUR BEESLEYEuropean Correspondent in Brussels

THE EU authorities urged Greek leaders to fully execute the country’s second EU-IMF bailout after pro-bailout parties failed to achieve enough support in the election to form a government.

Most Greeks backed parties opposed to the austerity plan tied to the rescue package, raising doubt over the viability of a complex plan hammered out in months of volatile talks with the country’s leaders.

Although it is widely acknowledged that the result has thrown the carefully crafted rescue plan into disarray, the European Commission said it remained in place and called on Greek leaders to act responsibly.

“I want to say that full and timely implementation of the programme is of the essence in order to meet the targets, and not only the targets, in order to meet the sustainability of the Greek debt,” said the spokesman for EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn.

Euro zone finance ministers are due in Brussels next Monday for scheduled talks. Their meeting is likely to be dominated by the unfolding situation in Greece.

The spokeswoman for commission president José Manuel Barroso declined to respond to questions on whether it was the policies of the EU-IMF that led to the election result and would not say if the commission was concerned about the outcome. “We hope and look to the future Greek government to respect, in the interest of a Greek sustainable economy and in the interest of the Greek people, the engagements that Greece has entered into,” she said.

EU leaders had sought letters from the leaders of the centre-right New Democracy and socialist Pasok party in which they pledged to execute the agreed programme.

After a drastic collapse in support, the parties’ combined tally of 149 seats was two short of the number required for a parliamentary majority. Although other parties aligned against the bailout terms, the European authorities have adopted the position that there is no alternative to the existing plan.

“Greece has voted in an election and has chosen those who will have responsibility for the future of the country, first and foremost,” said Rehn’s spokesman. “The responsibility lies on their shoulders, those who have been elected by the people of Greece.”

While he said it remained the objective of the EU and international authorities to support Greece, there were obligations on the Greek side as well. “At the level of the euro group [finance ministers], it’s been said time and again that we think Greece must remain a member of the euro, for instance, but everybody has to carry his responsibilities here,” he said.

“We can do lots to assist Greece and we are doing so. Our member states, our taxpayers in other European member states of the euro area, are providing this solidarity, but of course solidarity is a two-way street and I don’t think I have anything to add to this. A second programme has been negotiated with the Greek authorities, by the Greek authorities, on behalf of the Greek state. This is, let’s say, the deal that’s on the table.”

The spokesman added: “It is an unprecedented effort in terms of solidarity. The private sector has contributed to these efforts, in order to alleviate the debt burden and to bring debt back to sustainable levels by 2020. But of course when it comes to the implementation it’s up to the authorities. It’s absolutely premature to speculate on any decisions that might be taken by a government that doesn’t exist yet.”