Former PM George Papandreou is in Berlin participating in a conference on governance in Europe, at the invitation of the Hertie School of Governance, along with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijssenbloem , and former Italian PM Mario Monti.
In his speech and in an exclusive interview with German news agency Deutsche Welle, George Papandreou dotted on the increase of the electoral strength of the extreme right, which he called “especially disturbing.” Mr Papandreou opined that the reason, among others, was the constant decrease in the standard of living of European citizens in efforts to make Europe competitive vis-a-vis emerging economies. He proposed that Europe stay out of this race and invest in research and education, and compete on the lines of quality and value.
However, the former PM also blamed the weaknesses of the EU to deal with larger issues on a collective basis, which are exploited by the extreme right, which propose a re-nationalization of Europe. The solution, according to Mr Papandreou would be to empower the bloc institutionally and provide collective answers to large problems.
The former PM also makes an issue of a deficiency in democracy in the EU. As he explains, citizens feel estranged and not just because of a lack of participation, but mostly because decisions are taken by a very closed circle. Speaking at the conference, Mr Papandreou said the Commission was “very weak', the European parliament seemed ineffective despite significant initiatives, and while, according to his experience, the instrument that actually takes decisions is European Council. But even there, Germany and friends come into the council after deliberating among themselves with a decision ready made.
As concerns the results of elections in Greece, he told Deutsche Welle that they did not warrant a recourse to the ballot box, but noted that the center-left needs to address the issue of the clientilistic system, which he believes is at the root of the mismanagement of the country's resources and wealth and led to debt and deficits.
Mr Papndreou also noted that he is ready to contribute to a restructuring and resurgence of the center-left and the great changes the country needs.As concerns a possible collaboration between the left and the center-left, Mr Papandreou noted a need to be open to such synergies in future.
As concerns the heated discussion that has emerged after disclosures about plans for a Grexit back in 2012, the former PM stated his belief that if he went to a referendum the people would have backed his choice for an adjustment program. Mr Papandreou also expressed the opinion that an adjustment program might not even have been necessary if the EU partners in 2010 had shown the political resolve they showed in 2012, and pressures on Greece by markets may have been averted. Asked whether he took other leaders by surprise at Cannes, he offered a sibylline answer, saying that one day history will be written with all the necessary details.