Athens, 05/05/2010

I bring greetings and messages of solidarity from the 80 affiliates and 60 million members of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Everyone in the ETUC knows the seriousness of the situation.
Everyone appreciates that things must change.
But everyone too knows that the response of the EU so far to the Greek crisis has been hesitant, clumsy, and now positively dangerous, not just to Greece but to Europe.

It sorrows me to say that. I expected the EU to move in confidently to help Greece through its problems. I expected some argument over the terms – after all there is concern that previous Greek governments, aided and abetted by Goldman Sachs and others, cooked the books and cheated on the rules of the euro. That is hard to forgive by those who keep to the rules.

We all know too that rich Greeks have been avoiding paying taxes and I see from the London press that some of them are buying up expensive houses in London’s chicest neighbourhoods, deserting the national problems. That too is unacceptable unpatriotic behaviour.

Europe and the Greek government must work together, including with the social partners, to produce a Plan for Recovery. And I mean recovery.

Europe and the Greek government must work together, including with the social partners, to produce a Plan for Recovery. And I mean recovery.

I don’t mean cuts which will spark depression. I don’t mean conditions which will impoverish the country. I don’t mean reductions in pay and conditions which will depress demand and power fresh surges in unemployment.

What we need is honesty. Honesty about the cause of the problems. Honesty about the deals necessary to arrange cheap loans alongside a nationally agreed recovery plan, so that we can see a road forward to a better future. Honest that we should do for Greece what was done, unquestioningly by the way, for the banks.

What we need is honesty. Honesty about the cause of the problems. Honesty about the deals necessary to arrange cheap loans alongside a nationally agreed recovery plan, so that we can see a road forward to a better future. Honest that we should do for Greece what was done, unquestioningly by the way, for the banks.

There was no hesitation about bailing out the banks in 2008. They got what they wanted. There was no doctrine of moral hazard then. And today, all EU countries should approach Greece with respect, not tabloid racism; with sympathy, not scorn; with generosity, not suspicion.

Our key messages are: immediate assistance, blacklisting the rating agencies, showing who profits from the Greek crisis, costs should not be borne by the ordinary worker/citizen, danger of Greece bankrupting its economy through excessive consolidation.

Other nations have faced worst problems and come through – together.

Finland was left in a worse state after the Soviet Union collapsed. It came through – together – with the trade unions playing a crucial role. What Finland did, Greece can do – if the rich pay a fair and appropriate share – and the EU must help.

So best wishes to you all. Good luck with the struggle. Remember this is a fight not just about what you are against, but about what you are for – a changed Greece, a better Greece, a successful Greece that rather than be forced to seek help, can be one of those who can give help. That’s my ambition for Greece. I am sure that it is yours too.

Economic and Social crisis