[Interviews]

Athens Digest interviews senior EU and Greek officials/policymakers. The interviews are distributed via breaking editions of our newsletter to all recipients. Here you may find some older ones.

2021

Panos Tsakloglou: Current pension system is exposed to demographic risk
The ‘don’t fix it, if it works’ approach doesn’t work anymore, he says. Speaking to John Papageorgiou, Tsakloglou, the Greek Dep. Minister of Labor, stresses that the upcoming pension reform will provide a boost to employment, productivity, wages and growth. The former Greece representative at the EWG adds that the EU institutions are aware the government’s plan and an in-depth discussion with them will follow after the completion of three relevant ongoing studies.

Zsolt Darvas (Bruegel): Fundamental reform of EU fiscal rules is needed irrespective of the pandemic
“A fundamental reform of EU fiscal rules is needed irrespective of the pandemic and the fiscal situation of EU countries in the years to come, and the reason is that current rules suffer from major shortcomings. The current rules are overly complex, unpredictable, relies on unobserved variables (output gap and structural balance) that are difficult to estimate, prone to errors, lack proper enforcement mechanisms and credibility,” Zsolt Darvas tells Athens Digest.

Harry Theoharis: Vaccination certificate instead of a PCR test should be an option
“A common vaccination certificate should be an option instead of a PCR test before travelling,” Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis tells Athens Digest. “This dispels both myths: You are not prevented from travelling if you are not vaccinated and you are not forced to provide vaccination details; you can always get tested and keep the fact that you are vaccinated undisclosed,” he stresses.

Dimitris Skalkos: The implementation framework of the EU Cohesion Policy programmes must be reassessed
A flexible “covid strategy” should be implemented for at least the next two years, Dimitris Skalkos, General Secretary at the Ministry of Development & Investments, tells Athens Digest. “It is important to redefine the balance between the EU objectives and the current regional imbalances. This presupposes a serious reassessment of the management and implementation framework of Cohesion Policy programmes in order to simplify procedures and limit requirements,” he adds.

Leonidas Christopoulos (Digital Governance Gen. Sec.): The Greek roadmap to converge with the EU average
The secretary general of digital governance and simplification of procedures at the Ministry of Digital Governance, says Greece’s is set to make a successful shift towards comprehensive digitization with deep-rooted improvements in communications infrastructure as well administrative reorganization.

2020

Gentiloni says “definitely yes” to a euro area safe asset
The time is “definitely” right for the introduction of a euro area safe asset, said EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni when asked in an interview with Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou. However, he also added that he is “definitely aware of the fact that to build consensus among member states on this necessity will not be easy (…) We can’t accept the idea that the countries having high debt are exposed to different risks from the others. We have a common Union, we have a single currency. We should complete this common Union and this monetary Union. How to complete it without a form of safe asset? It’s very difficult.”

2019

Moscovici interview: Greece can still make debt relief deadline
EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has told the Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou in an interview that he believes Greece can overcome delays in the reform programme before the March 11 Eurogroup and qualify for additional debt relief. “There are two (issues) that need to be addressed: Divestment on lignite on the one hand, and also the protection of the primary residence, the amendment or change of the so-called Katselis Law,” Moscovici said in the interview with Athens Municipal Radio while on a visit to the Greek capital for meetings with Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos. Asked if the Commission fully supports the implementation of the tax reform which has been legislated for next year, he said: “I will concentrate on March 11. Next year is next year _ 2020 comes after 2019 and as far as I know there will be elections in this country. I don’t know exactly when but certainly during this year because it is the term of Alexis Tsipras’ mandate, so we will have a (later) occasion to discuss the future.”

2018

Jeroen Dijsselbloem: Greece needs to send a signal beyond pensions
The former president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says Greece should swiftly demonstrate its commitment to a reform agenda if European lenders back Athens on a U-turn over pension cuts. “There is no direct fiscal need to do it,’ he said referring to the pre-legislated pension cuts he told Athens Digest , just before his arrival in Athens for the presentation of his book “Eurocrisis”. He cautioned that investors would be looking for policy consistency from Greece after its bailout exit. “So I would say that on a number of topics they are moving ahead _ on alternative topics _ then that should also give comfort to the outside world.” Dijsselbloem issued a warning to fellow Social Democrats struggling to regain appeal with voters ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections. “Don’t follow the populists, however attractive that might be in the short run to become tough like the hard right (on immigration) or fiscally irresponsible like the hard left. Don’t go that way.” The Social Democrats, he said, had to convince voters they had workable policies on delivering prosperity and managing migration. “Europe always provided prosperity and safety for people … (but) since the turn of the century, I think that has changed,” he said. “Migration has become a big issue in all of our countries. And on top of that, we had the financial crisis with disastrous effects. I think the voters of Social Democrats are simply disappointed.”

2017

EC VP Maros Sefcovic: Energy reforms may bring huge benefits to Greece
Greece can become an important player in the Mediterranean energy market. It needs to proceed with the reforms, create the appropriate conditions and improve its infrastructure. Then the benefits for the country will be enormous. Maros Sefcofic, EU Commission’s Vice President was interviewed by Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou

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