Greece to the fore on Parliament's agenda this week
Having reached an agreement on its bailout with other eurozone countries on 20 and 24 February, Greece is also to the forefront of Parliament's proceedings this week. Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem addressed the economic and monetary affairs committee on Tuesday morning, and ECB president Mario Draghi comes to plenary on Wednesday afternoon.
The state of play in Eurogroup talks with Greece dominated the economic and monetary affairs committee’s regular debate with Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Tuesday morning. He confirmed that the Greek reform plan had been received on Monday evening and that Eurogroup ministers would discuss it in a conference call on Tuesday.
In the video illustrating this article you can find reactions by members of the economic and monetary affairs committee to Dijsselbloem's visit. (Click here to access video extracts from the debate.)
ECB president Mario Draghi attends the plenary session on Wednesday afternoon where MEPs are set to review the ECB's activities in 2013. Follow the session live on our website.
From elections to bailout negotiations
The legislative elections in Greece on 25 January brought to power Syriza, a left-wing party which campaigned on an anti-austerity platform. In the aftermath of those elections, Parliament's president Martin Schulz stressed that “we have to stick to the agreements made to stabilise Greece and the European Union”. Click here for the reactions and expectations of MEPs following the January elections.
Eurozone finance ministers reached an agreement on 20 February to consider extending financial assistance to Greece for up to four months. The Greek government presented a first list of reform measures in line with existing agreements this week. These measures were positively assessed by the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF; and were also accepted initially by eurozone governments on 24 February.
The current financial assistance to Greece was due to expire on 28 February. This four month funding bridge would allow for discussions on a third loan package to avert bankruptcy in Greece.
The Troika and the Greek crisis
The economic crisis pushed Greece to accept an international bailout programme monitored by an authority that came to be known as the Troika, named as such because it was composed of representatives from three organisations: the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF.
As there have been many concerns over how the Troika operates, the Parliament conducted an inquiry which included visits to Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and hearings with people who have been involved with Troika decisions. Find out more in our top story.
The Parliament's inquiry investigated the social aspects of Troika policy in bailout countries. According to Eurostat the percentage of Greeks at risk of poverty or social exclusion rose from 28.1% in 2008 to 35.7% in 2013. Similarly the number of Greeks described as "severely materially deprived" rose from 11.2% in 2008 to 20.3% five years later.
The European Commission's economic forecast published on 5 February last reported that "public finances continue to improve" and that “Greece’s economy began to grow again in the second quarter of 2014." It also stated however that "uncertainty on the direction of policies is affecting confidence and may dent the speed of the recovery.”
Background to the bailout
Greece received its first loan package (€110 billion) in May 2010. The previous autumn the Greek government had announced that the country's budget deficit would rise above 12% of GDP, more than four times higher than the maximum allowed by eurozone rules.
A second loan package of €130 billion was announced in March 2012. In April 2014 Greece succeeding in raising money from the financial markets, a positive step in the country's struggle to return to economic normality. The latest bailout negotiations follow the election of a new government in Greece in January 2015.