By Dimitris Papadimoulis is Vice President of the European Parliament, head of Syriza party delegation.

During the last couple of years the Greek economy has been moved from a state of prolonged crisis into a state of steady recovery. The revised growth figures of the European Commission for the 2016-18 period come to re-affirm the positive developments, as in 2017 the economy is expected to grow by 2.7% and in 2018 by 3.1%. In 2016, the economy grew by 0.3% for the first time since 2008, against the predictions of both the European Commission and the IMF for regression of -0.3% and -0.5% respectively.

Similarly for unemployment rates. Since the end of 2014, unemployment has been progressively falling, from 27% to 23.5% in the last quarter of 2016. This downward trend is expected to continue, and by the end of 2018, the European Commission predicts the figure to stand at 20%. Still, the numbers are extremely high, but comparing the massive surge between 2009 and 2014, there is significant improvement.

Steady signs of recovery, coupled with increasing growth rates, declining unemployment and the positive steps on tax collection mechanisms are a proof that things are changing. The primary surplus for 2016 exceeded the target of 0.5% of GDP, reaching 2% (i.e. which is 4 times higher), leaving room for the government to alleviate the pressure on low-income pensioners by providing the one-time relief package last December and to temporarily freeze a VAT increase in the Aegean islands where there are thousands of refugees and migrants.

On top of this, Greece has recently agreed to short-term debt relief measures that are about to significantly contribute in reducing gross-financing needs and make investors feel more comfortable. It is therefore important that economic and political stability are preserved and that Greece remains focused on track of reforms to successfully exit the fiscal adjustment program in mid-2018.

In this respect, it is vital to conclude the bailout review, pending since late 2016, and to reach a fair compromise. The IMF and the German Finance Minister Mr Schauble should both rely on their analysis and approach on the most recent evidence of fiscal performance, published by Eurostat and the European Commission, and the ability of the Greek economy to produce fiscal surpluses. It is urgent to address the fiscal and primary surpluses for the years after 2018 and to avoid excessive demands (i.e. new austerity cuts and primary surpluses at 3.5% for ten years) that will damage the progress that has been made and undermine mid and long-term sustainable growth, which is beneficial for both Greece and its creditors. The gap in fiscal estimates between the creditors should be reduced so that the economy can continue recovering and reforms can keep yielding results.

Furthermore, the Greek government is arguing in favour of a growth-friendly policy mix that will make possible a better GDP output in the coming years, securing tax compliance and combatting tax evasion. On that front, the use of cards in payments and the improvement of tax collection administration helped identify many cases of tax evasion. The policy mix suggested by the Greek side has been endorsed by the European Commission and the ESM with both institutions pressing for the conclusion of the bailout review.

Finally, it has to be noted that the controversy between the creditors over the Greek program has nothing to do with the performance of the economy and the efficiency of reforms. It is common sense that Greece is doing way better than expected and that the delay has strong political nuances. Amid electoral campaigns and competing interests in Europe, it is quite challenging to find a solution that will keep our European future united against populist, anti-European and extreme right political forces.

Dimitris Papadimoulis is Vice President of the European Parliament, head of Syriza party delegation.

The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the views of Euronews

Here's the link: http://www.euronews.com/2017/02/18/opinion-greeces-economy-strongly-recovers-for-first-time-since-2010

Με επιτυχία στέφθηκε η διακομματική προσπάθεια Ελλήνων και Κυπρίων Ευρωβουλευτών στην οποία συνέβαλε και η Ευρωομάδα της Αριστεράς, ώστε η Ελλάδα και ειδικότερα η ΔΕΗ καθώς και η Ελληνική Τσιμεντοβιομηχανία και η Βιομηχανία Ασβέστου, να ενταχθούν, ομαλά και με βάση τα πραγματικά δεδομένα, στις προβλέψεις της έκθεσης ΕΤS, που αφορά στην εμπορία ρύπων, προστατεύοντας έτσι δεκάδες χιλιάδες θέσεις απασχόλησης.

Η ψηφοφορία στην Ολομέλεια του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου, που διεξήχθη στις 15 Φεβρουαρίου, σφράγισε το δικαίωμα της ΔΕΗ να έχει πρόσβαση στο καθεστώς εμπορίας ρύπων μέσω της αλλαγής του τρόπου υπολογισμού. Η αρχική πρόβλεψη αφορούσε υπολογισμό με βάση το έτος 2013, όταν και η Ελλάδα δεν πληρούσε τις προϋποθέσεις για να συμπεριληφθεί σε τέτοια ρύθμιση με βάση το ύψος του ΑΕΠ της, ενώ μετά από την εγκριθείσα τροπολογία, στο έτος αναφοράς προστέθηκαν το 2014 και το 2015, έτη κατά τα οποία τα μεγέθη της οικονομίας είχαν χειροτερέψει λόγω της ύφεσης.
Με βάση τις τροπολογίες που κατατέθηκαν και συγκεκριμένα τις υπ’ αριθμόν 38, η ΔΕΗ αποκτά το δικαίωμα πρόσβασης στον Ταμείο Εκσυγχρονισμού της ΕΕ και σε κονδύλια που θα ενισχύσουν την ήδη επιτυχημένη προσπάθεια της για μείωση των ρύπων κατά 55% μέχρι και το 2030, ανακατευθύνοντας παράλληλα την παραγωγή της, με σχεδιασμένη μείωση της συμμετοχής του λιγνίτη, προς όφελος των ανανεώσιμων μορφών ενέργειας.

Παράλληλα, με τις τροπολογίες 27 και 84 που κατέθεσε η Ευρωομάδα της Αριστεράς και που, εκτός των Ελλήνων και Κύπριων Ευρωβουλευτών, στηρίχθηκαν από ένα ευρύ πολιτικό φάσμα, δόθηκε «πράσινο φως» στην Ελληνική και Κυπριακή Βιομηχανία Τσιμέντου και Ασβέστου, καθώς απειλούνταν με ενδεχόμενη κατάρρευση εφόσον αποκλείονταν από το καθεστώς των δωρεάν δικαιωμάτων. Σε αυτή την περίπτωση η Τσιμεντοβιομηχανία και η Ασβεστοβιομηχανία σε Ελλάδα και Κύπρο θα κινδύνευαν με αφανισμό καθώς θα είχαν συγκριτικό μειονέκτημα σε σχέση με αντίστοιχες βιομηχανίες γειτονικών χωρών που είναι μεγαλύτερες σε μέγεθος και που θα κατάφερναν να αντιμετωπίσουν ενδεχόμενες συνέπειες πολύ πιο εύκολα.

Αναφερόμενος στο αποτέλεσμα της ψηφοφορίας, ο Δημήτρης Παπαδημούλης δήλωσε: «Έγινε ένα αναγκαίο και θετικό βήμα, χάρη σε μια αποτελεσματική διακομματική συνεργασία, στηριγμένη σε στοιχεία και επιχειρήματα. Ευχαριστώ όσες και όσους συνέβαλαν σε αυτό».

Ακολουθεί η σχετική επιστολή που έστειλε την Τρίτη 14/2/2017 ο Αντιπρόεδρος του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου και Επικεφαλής της Ευρωομάδας του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ Δημήτρης Παπαδημούλης, σε όλους τους Ευρωβουλευτές, καλώντας τους σε υποστήριξη των παραπάνω τροπολογιών, οι οποίες, σχεδόν όλες υιοθετήθηκαν με ευρύτατη διακομματική πλειοψηφία από την Ολομέλεια του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου:

Dear Colleagues,

In the light of the Plenary voting tomorrow on A8-0003/2017 «Cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments», let me draw your attention concerning ETS and the side effects it will have in the industry of Greece and Cyprus.

Greece fully endorses and supports the efforts to limit the overall emissions and at the same time acts in order to establish a low carbon economy, following the policy guidelines of the climate and energy framework 2030. Overall, Greece has set a goal to reduce its emissions by 55% up to 2030, well over the 43% EU target as compared to 2005. The goal of Greece is to switch from coal to renewables as its basic fuel directly and without passing through a «gas» intermediate phase.

More precisely, in the EU carbon trading system (ETS), a series of measures have been provisioned to mitigate the burden of climate policies on the most vulnerable sectors and countries. Greece is requesting its inclusion in such compensation schemes because its economy is certainly vulnerable, and its GDP has fallen from 2014 onwards below the 60% of the EU average, which is the eligibility criterion set in the proposal of the European Parliament’s industry committee. In other words, we ask the EU to take into account the latest GDP figures of 2015 and 2015 and not the older ones of 2013. Therefore, we propose to support the following Amendments 145,147,148,149, the links of which you can find here: goo.gl/vr9LMh and goo.gl/O861tu, related to the Modernisation Fund and the transitional free allocation to installations for electricity production.

By including Greece in such a scheme, it will also have access to the Modernization Fund which is required for modernising the transmission and distribution networks among many others. Greece is the most south-eastern country of the EU, with limited access to electricity grid interconnections, while it has a host of isolated islands that rely on oil for electricity generation. Modernizing energy assets, developing renewable generation on the islands and interconnecting them to the mainland grid requires funding that Greece finds hard to raise.

At the same time, we need to protect the local small cement industries in the EU, and especially those established in Greece and Cyprus. Therefore we oppose the deletion of the cement industry from the carbon leakage list and we suggest to delete the proposal for a «border adjustment mechanism», by voting against the second part (split vote) of the ENVI Amendments 12 and 27 and the AM 84 as a whole. Such a decision will create great uncertainty and will threaten 13.000 jobs, currently working in those industries (Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal will be heavily affected) and at the same time will not manage to reduce the emissions.

Kind Regards,

Dimitrios Papadimoulis
Vice President of the European Parliament
Head of the SYRIZA Delegation

The outcome of the April 16 referendum on a constitutional reform shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system has revealed a highly polarized society.

In all big cities - Istanbul, İzmir, Antalya, Adana, and the capital Ankara - as well in the western parts of the country, the “No” vote prevailed. Whereas in the majority of Anatolia, the “Yes” vote proved much stronger.

The “No” camp also dominated among a majority of the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) supporters in southeast Turkey.

The polarization of Turkish society has developed among different social classes, between urban and rural areas, between people with different educational backgrounds, professions and incomes. The biggest challenge for the Turkish political leadership is to smooth these growing gaps and bring unity, as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated just after the announcement of the results.

In this context, the government has to boost social inclusion policies, ending the belligerent rhetoric and judicial troubles of HDP lawmakers, trying to realize pluralism and independence in the media, the judiciary corps and academia.

It would also be useful to tone down aggressive statements against the European Union and to manage the turmoil in the Aegean, as such practices do not abide by the notion of the “new era” that the current leadership wants to establish for Turkey. Therefore, the second challenge for the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is to strengthen dialogue between Greece and Turkey and deepen bilateral relations with the European Union.

The criticism of the EU, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) against the policies of the Turkish government with regard to the quality of the democracy during the previous period should not be negatively perceived by the Turkish authorities. On the contrary, it should be the departing point for fruitful cooperation. The EU and Turkey have a mutual interest in seeing the refugee deal moving forward successfully, improving political management domestically, increasing trade and economic ties, and ameliorating vital macroeconomic indicators that are vulnerable to external financial and geopolitical pressures.

Turkey can become a pillar of stability in the region

In the post-referendum era, Turkey has a great chance to shift its orientation toward solidifying the democratic profile of its political system, empowering social unity, and improving relations with the EU.

The country could become a pillar of stability in the wider region, distancing itself from policies that cause uncertainty and increase the threat of collision. In this context, Turkey could essentially contribute to the final resolution of the Cyprus issue, a development that could unleash positive investment, trade and economic prospects for the Eastern Mediterranean region, and multiply the chances for growth, peaceful co-existence and political stability.

* Dimitris Papadimoulis is Vice President of the European Parliament, head of Syriza party delegation.

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