ATHENS – Former Greek premier George Papandreou said the European Union acted too slow to help stop an economic crisis in Greece and blamed his predecessor, Costas Karamanlis, for hiding a huge deficit.
Papandreou, the former chief of the PASOK Socialists who won 44 percent of the vote when he was elected but have fallen to as low as 3 percent after continuing to back the austerity measures demanded by international lenders that he first imposed, quit after relentless protests, strikes and riots.
He campaigned on a platform that, “The money is there,” only to walk into a disaster, he said, when his government officials from the administration of Caramanlis, the then New Democracy Conservative leader, had died about how bad the economy was.
That led Papandreou to ask the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) for what turned into two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion), most of which runs out this year.
He said the EU took too long to help Greece, whose crisis was largely caused by New Democracy and PASOK spending wildly for decades and hiring hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes.
Speaking to Italy’s Corriere della Sera in an interview published on April 12, he said he was glad Greece has just returned to issuing its first sovereign bond since he was in office but said it took long for the country’s financial “exile” to end and said it wasn’t his fault.
On the issue of Greece altering economic figures, Papandreou noted that the European Commission and the IMF had been monitoring the situation and may have issued warnings to Karamanlis but didn’t say if he knew for sure although it was in his power to find out when he was prime minister.
“My government and I were punished for other people’s sins,” said Papandreou. He said what Greece needed was not loans but a new model for growth, while blaming a huge deficit and staggering debt on structural issues including red tape, corruption and tax evasion, none of which he tried to correct.
Since leaving office in November of 2011 he has continued to service – as has Karamanlis – as a back-bencher Member of Parliament. Papandreou also is being paid to give speeches about the crisis and to teach at American Ivy League colleges about it, drawing three different sources of income to profit from the debacle.
He previously had also blamed hedge fund speculators and outside forces for the crisis while taking none of the responsibility.
Prime Minister and current New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is taking credit for steering Greece out of the crisis and said the economy will begin to recover this year although he, too, has backed austerity that has made his party take a hit in the polls.