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“Don't pressure Greece”. Washington brings Europe back to reality

Barack Obama (credit: CNN)
Barack Obama (credit: CNN)

(BRUSSELS2) The gong has come, once again, from the other side of the Atlantic. The American President, Barack Obama, intervened in the European debate which is beginning on the attitude to have on Greece. It was sure CNN, last night (live from India where the US president is traveling). And the message is clear.

Do not continue to pressure depressed countries

« We cannot continue to put pressure on countries that are in the depths of depression. At some point, you need a growth strategy to be able to repay your debts, to eliminate deficits. There is no doubt that Greece is in dire need. The tax collection system is truly horrible ».

Necessary compromises on each side (Athens and Berlin)

The American president is giving Europe a lesson in realism. “ To remain competitive in the global market, Greece must initiate changes ". But " it is very difficult to initiate these changes if people's standard of living has fallen by 25%. In the long run, the political system, society cannot support it. "" My hope is that Greece stays in the eurozone. This would require compromises from all sides. » In case it is not clear which (other) side the game is taking place on. Barack Obama recalls how committed he is "for many years" for a revitalization of the Euro zone. “I think there is a recognition in all countries, in Germany, that it was better for Greece to stay in the Euro.”

What Europe is missing: “a growth strategy”

« Fiscal prudence is necessary, structural reforms are necessary in many of these countries. But what we have learned from our experience in the United States for a long time is that the best way to reduce deficits and restore budgetary solidity is to generate growth. When you have an economy that is in free fall, there must be a growth strategy, and not just efforts to put more and more pressure on a population that is suffering more and more. »

Comments: a message with several readings.

Brussels waits, Washington intervenes. Personally, I would have liked such a clear and committed speech to come from the European authorities. I haven't heard such a message resolved. It's a shame. As a result, he came from across the Atlantic. Which gives (or reinforces) the impression that the European structure remains dependent on American leadership.

Berlin targeted. The American president had already had Tsipras on the phone as soon as he was elected. Even if the communicated official remained very cautious, the Greek government had made it known that the US president's message was directed against austerity. This time Obama hit the nail on the head publicly. And it is Berlin – and the hardest camp at European level – which is targeted quite clearly in what looks like a warning. It is not the first time. The USA is closely following developments in Europe. And if necessary correct European hesitations or errors.

“Security” counterparties. This very committed support from the American government to the Tsipras government should not, however, be without compensation. Behind the economic discourse, the USA also has more security concerns: Greece's commitment to remaining in NATO without ambiguity, its support for a hard line against Russia such as the installation of a possible drone base in Greece are at the heart of the discussion between Athens and Washington. The conversation between Obama and Tsipras – the day after his election – was also about “European security” and the “fight against terrorism”. Here too, the new “Syriza” government resulting from the polls will have to make “compromises”

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).