As enormous public debt continues to loom over many EU economies – stifling growth and hampering development – GUE/NGL gathered experts and authors from around the world to tackle the issue in the event ‘How to deal with Public Debt? – Lessons Learned & Policies Ahead’ held in the European Parliament this morning.
The discussions focused on the issues surrounding the creditors’ terms and conditions imposed upon Greece and Portugal; the euro currency as a power of governance; and the shift in the balance of powers away from certain member states towards northern Europe.
Solutions were put forward for how best to deal with public debt and put countries back on track for development.
Chairing the initiative, the Vice-President of the European Parliament and Greek MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis said:
“More and more people have come to realise that debt is not purely ‘a Greek problem’ but rather, a European and global issue.”
“Global debt in 2007 was US$27 trillion. In 2012, it reached US$41 trillion. Right now, global debt has reached almost 100% of global GDP.”
“Recently in Greece, the Siemens scandal finally went to the Greek court of justice – after a delay of more than 10 years. A large part of Greece's debt is due to corruption by the previous governments. In many of these cases, big multinational companies are involved. Coincidentally, most of them are based in Germany,” said Papadimoulis.
Italian MEP Eleonora Forenza, meanwhile, explained why such a conference on debt is necessary:
“This conference has done sterling work. As someone from the Mediterranean, it isn’t just a matter of showing solidarity with Greece over this issue. It is also about understanding the ideological use of debt and the manipulation of its spread which has led to an unprecedented overhaul of labour and pension rights.”
“We were told we were living beyond our means. But the EU has not only used debt to hold Greece to ransom but also allowed EU economic governance to be applied to member states in southern Europe,” argued Forenza.
Portuguese MEP Marisa Matias though had this warning for the EU:
“This event tried to dismantle the myths around the emergence of unsustainable public debts whilst at the same time showing that these debts – although confined to individual member states – are essentially a European problem.”
“If the EU fails to recognise this fact, it will ensure its own destruction.”
“However, it is also very important to stress that this is a global problem that needs to be tackled in order to give citizens a chance and to reinforce democracy,” concluded Matias.
Finally, Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Development at the Parliament, commented:
“I'm not sure whether we have learned a lot about the debt itself. The best that could happen is to react to a problem immediately, and – of course – to avoid the involvement of the IMF.”
You can watch the event on demand via this link: