A 90+ -page long-paper, styled Enhanced Surveillance Report-Greece, published June 2019 as Institutional Paper 103 and annexed to a European Commission Communication dated June 5 as COM (2019) 540 final, with the usual Brussels techno-language but far less acerbity than earlier papers concerning the successive Greek Adjustment Programmes, was enough to cause ripples on the face of the Greece-EU recently peaceful lake.
The third such report on Greece under its post-Programme surveillance routine had unpleasant things to say on the levels of the public-sector staffing under a wage-bill angle; on the sustainability of primary surpluses agreed upon after the recent measures to ease pensions-and-tax austerity; on the slow progress of structural reform and the suchlike. Still, the language was designed to offer no direct offense.
Notwithstanding this diplomatic stance, Prime Minister Tsipras was fast to attack “extreme conservative circles of Brussels”, insinuating that such positions were taken in cahoots with the main opposition party in Greece. Opposition chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis retorted that Brussels were “slow to point” that there was “considerable lagging in important reforms”. Not to be left behind, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos took exception to ESM Director Klaus Regling predictions over Greece – to the point of saying that had he (Regling) been his student – Tsakalotos is an economics professor – he would have failed him.
Of course, it is national elections time in Greece. Which goes far enough to explain why such positions are voiced. To add insult to injury, an unnamed spokesperson in Brussels was fast in decrying the recent vote in Greek Parliament that took back a previously enacted rule that would have widened the tax base, as a major structural reform. Post-election relations between Athens and Brussels won’t be an easy game to play.