Michael D Higgins criticises EU treatment of Greece during visit to Athens

President says those responsible for mistaken economic policies must take blame

Those responsible for mistaken economic policies that have had such a negative effect on the Greek people need to take responsibility for their actions, President Michael D Higgins has said, on the first day of his state visit.

"It is a moral test of all actions that the person who initiates an action must take responsibility for its consequences," Mr Higgins told his Greek counterpart, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

“It is little less than outrageous that the social consequences of decisions that are taken are not in fact understood and offered to people as choices,” Mr Higgins said, in remarks at a bilateral meeting at the presidential mansion.

Referring to the speech made by Emmanuel Macron on his recent state visit to Athens, Mr Higgins said he had to “say something much stronger” than the French president, who, he noted had acknowledged “that great mistakes, with great effect on the Greek people, have been made and that these were mistakes of the European Union”.


“Cohesion, social cohesion, social Europe, must be placed on the top of the agenda that we all now share on the future of the union.”

‘Social consequences’

This meant that “we cannot continue adjusting out populations to economics models that not only have failed but have not submitted themselves to empirical tests in relation to their social consequences.

“If parliaments and the mediating institutions continue to leach influence because they no longer have any power, because influences are coming from those who have no accountability, then we have a crisis.”

None of this was inevitable, Mr Higgins said.

“We are not pushing on to the final catharsis of any tragedy. But there has been too much suffering and the union is a union of the peoples of Europe if it is to be at its best.

The first day of the three-day state visit began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, at Syntagma Square in the centre of the Greek capital.

After being formally received by Mr Pavlopoulos at the presidential mansion, Mr Higgins paid a visit to Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

Media representatives were not present at the latter meeting.

An official ANA news agency report said Mr Tsipras “noted that the Greek people perhaps have suffered more in the crisis than the Irish, a remark that President Higgins agreed with”.

The President also met mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis who awarded Mr Higgins the medal of the city.

Damian Mac Con Uladh

Damian Mac Con Uladh

Damian Mac Con Uladh is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Athens