EU to Greece: Put It In Writing

Demands written pledge to honor austerity commitment

The European Central Bank building in Frankfurt, Germany. (AP Photo/Bernd Kammerer) The European Central Bank building in Frankfurt, Germany. (AP Photo/Bernd Kammerer)

The European Commission ordered Monday that Greece’s new leaders must put in writing their pledge to honor new austerity measures before Athens is given its sixth installment of aid.

In a Bloomberg report Monday, Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for the European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, was quoted saying, “A clear and unequivocal commitment in writing by the political forces in Greece” will be required for the budget austerity measures the country has said it will undertake.

The document will require political signatories, including Antonis Samaras, head of the New Democracy party, to affirm their commitment to carrying out further efforts to cut Greece’s debt before the next tranche of the country’s bailout loans will be released to it. “At this stage,” added Altafaj, “we don’t have it.”

Samaras has been an outspoken critic of the austerity measures, and was instrumental in the fall of Greece’s prior government under George Papandreou. The country’s current leader, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, was meeting Monday in Brussels with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Barroso.

The New Democracy Party is a member of Greece’s new unity government under Papademos. Samaras, however, is still presenting a threat to Greece’s financial stability; he has dug in his heels at the EC demand for a written commitment, instead telling officials from the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank that he has already taken five actions that show his party’s full commitment to the program, according to a report by the state-run Athens News Agency on November 19.

The installments of the 2010 bailout package, which amounts to some 110 billion euros ($148 billion), have increasingly become bones of contention as troika inspectors (the EU, IMF, and ECB) have criticized Greece’s efforts to implement austerity even as the country’s citizens have taken to the streets to strike and to protest job, pay and retirement cuts and new and higher taxes.

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