Michael Portillo slammed EU for letting Greece join euro – ‘Sucked in!’

Greece: Clashes break out during Thessaloniki protest in March

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Greece this week submitted its National Recovery Plan to the European Commission. The document will contain its proposals for using the bloc’s crisis funds to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bloomberg. It will focus on four areas: digital transition; employment, training, and social cohesion; the green economy; and boosting investment.

In a newsletter, Alex Patelis, chief economic adviser to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said: “The plan consists of both reforms and investments.”

Along with Bulgaria, Greece is set to become one of the two largest benefactors on a per capita basis.

The EU’s coronavirus recovery package scheme looks to help the countries hardest hit, mainly in Southern Europe.

Many fear that the package will bring a rerun of the crippling debts European countries found themselves in after the 2008 financial crash.

Greece was thrown into crisis during this period, forced to seek bailouts from the European Economic Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to avoid defaulting.

Many, like the former Conservative politician Michael Portillo, blame Greece’s demise post-2008 directly on the EU.

The euro was introduced on New Year’s Day, 2002, an event which the ECB described as the “dawn of a new age”.

Twelve countries took the plunge and adopted the new currency as their own.

Joining was supposed to help weak economies like Greece catch up with their richer eurozone partners.

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During the BBC’s 2012 documentary, ‘Michael Portillo’s Great Euro Crisis’, he visited various organisations and individuals to find out whether they believed Greece should continue with the euro or return to the drachma, the country’s last national currency.

It relinquished the right to print its own money in favour of joining a broader European dream, but Mr Portillo argued that this dream quickly turned into a nightmare.

Visiting a shrine to the drachma, he slammed the EU for allowing Greece to sign up to the euro, and said: “A weak economy like Greece should never have shared the same currency with Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe.

“A weak drachma made it easy to export Greek tomatoes and olives.


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“But being part of the stronger euro has made Greece uncompetitive and sucked in manufactured imports.”

Shortly before, he visited a soup kitchen in Athens, one of many that had sprung up across the city in response to the mass unemployment after the crash.

Describing the scene, he said: “What I’ve witnessed here reminds me of those black and white photographs of the American Great Depression of the 1930s.

“The fact that it’s happening in 21st century Europe seems to me incredible.”

By 2012, homeless numbers in the city had reached 20,000, not including the country at large.

The food centre Mr Portillo visited was feeding 1,250 people a day.

The unemployment and subsequent homelessness has largely been attributed to the vast austerity measures the EU required Greece to roll-out in return for a financial bailout.

The ECB and IMF granted the country 110billion (96.7bn) in loans bolted with interest rates.

Germany provided the largest sum, around €22bn (£19bn).

Afterwards, public spending on things like jobs, infrastructure and pensions was restricted to devastating effect.

Greece continues to pay back the sum with its final scheduled instalment not until 2040.

Currently, 40 percent of those aged 15-24 are unemployed.

The average for the same age group across the entire continent is just 14 percent.

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