Athens concludes its ESM bailout programme

Greece officially concluded its ESM financial assistance programme this week. For the first time in eight years it will have to finance itself on the markets. Although its economic data has improved of late, one in five Greeks is still unemployed and the national debt is still at 180 percent of GDP. Can the country get back on its feet on its own?

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Greeks living abroad must return home

An estimated 400,000 highly qualified Greeks left Greece during the crisis to find jobs elsewhere. Bringing them back would be a boon for the country, Kathimerini stresses:

“Diaspora Greeks – the people who moved away in recent years as well as those who settled abroad before the financial crisis – could be the driving force of the much-desired recovery. Their high educational level and rich experience drawn from living in advanced societies could be put to the service of building a new Greece. A good number would certainly be willing to contribute. As long as they are convinced that Greece – the state, politicians, the system – has changed.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Causes of the crisis by no means resolved

The problems that led to Greece's financial disaster remain unsolved, Le Monde cautions:

“Corruption continues to be rampant, and the mountain of debt is still extremely high. The question of the country's economic model remains unanswered. And the political prospects are as dim as ever: while Europe praises Alexis Tsipras's pragmatism the Greek prime minister has nevertheless been weakened by the catastrophic crisis management of the wildfires in the Athens vicinity. ... Finally, leaving the bailout programme is above all a symbolic act: Greece will continue to remain under strict supervision. As for the EU, the start of this new phase for Greece should prompt some intense soul-searching, because Greece has had to foot the bill for the shortcomings of an incomplete monetary union.”

Novi list (HR) /

Further financial earthquakes possible

Now that Greece has completed its bailout programme Novi list takes a look at other potential crises in Europe:

“If new, already simmering anger comes to the surface it could trigger a catastrophic financial and economic earthquake that would change the face of the EU. First there is the looming crisis in Turkey, whose credit rating Standard & Poor's lowered once again last week. ... At the same time the Brexit issue is getting more and more complicated. And Italy also poses a threat. The new government in Rome is no longer willing to stick to the budget rules. ... Fourth, we mustn't forget the trade dispute between the US and the EU despite the current truce.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Make the euro crisis-proof

The monetary union urgently needs to be reformed if another crisis such as the one in Greece is to be prevented, the Tages-Anzeiger stresses:

“Three instruments can help here: a budget for the Eurozone, a common unemployment insurance system and a European monetary fund. As with defence, Europe must also assume more responsibility in financial and economic policy and become a little more independent. In a world in which old allies can no longer be relied on this is imperative. For self-protection alone, a stable monetary union is needed. Now we must hope that Europe has learned its lesson from the Greek crisis and doesn't wait until there's no other alternative before taking action.”

El País (ES) /

Austerity policy as a deterrent

The austerity measures imposed by the troika can hardly be seen as part of a sensible financial policy, El País finds:

“The monetary union must have security, risk mutualisation and fiscal solidarity mechanisms that are strong enough to prevent the kind of solution that Greece and to a lesser extent other peripheral EU countries had to bear. The indiscriminate austerity package was not an efficient policy but an irrational deterrent with extremely negative political consequences. It is just as important to assume that it must be the creditors who support the costs of the debt restructuring processes, and not the taxpayers, who make up the vast majority of the citizens.”

Ta Nea (GR) /

The odyssey continues

Prime Minister Tsipras announced that Greece's odyssey had come to an end but that's not quite true, Ta Nea explains:

“The truth is that after 20 August, the country will remain bound by the commitments that its government has made to creditors. The country will be under their strict surveillance and under a sort of guardianship, to which none of the other countries which completed bailout memorandums was subjected. The truth is that creditors will have the last word on a series of issues, and any divergence from what has been agreed to will be anything but easy. All of this means that the post-bailout reality will not be much different than in the memorandum period.”

Trud (BG) /

An economic ruin

Greece's prospects are anything but rosy in Trud's opinion:

“The Greece of 2018 has nothing in common with that of 2010. It's poor, worn out and pessimistic. The Greek economy has shrunk by 25 percent and nothing points to things improving any time soon. In practice, only those Greeks now in their twenties can hope to see better days in the future. Although Greece is not officially bankrupt, it's simply too deep in debt to function without EU controls. ... Millions of pensions will be cut by 2019, and as many tax exemptions by 2020. These measures will mainly hit the middle class. It's unrealistic to believe that Greece will be able to generate a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP per year by 2022.”

Mérce (HU) /

The EU hasn't learned any lessons

Another crisis is just around the corner, the left-wing website Mérce predicts:

“The European Union and the Eurozone haven't learned much from the crisis: the stringent financial policy they demanded continues to serve the interests of Germany's strong, export-oriented economy while hindering the development of the southern countries and their weak industries. The desire for more solidarity was not built into Europe's DNA and a crisis like that in Greece could break out in another member state at any time. Italy's enormous national debt, for example, fills many analysts with fear. They believe that after the Greek crisis Europe may soon have to contend with an Italian crisis.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Those who benefitted from the whole affair

The draconic measures the consequences of which the Greeks will suffer for years to come have above all benefited Germany, La Vanguardia concludes:

“The examples experienced so far have shown that the bailouts of countries in crisis are in effect bailouts of the creditor banks. In the case of Greece it was mainly about the German banks. It's hard to calculate how much the Germans benefited from the Greek bailouts which prevented huge losses for their banks, but ironically one of the results of the Greek crisis has been that Germany has made 2.9 billion euros in profit from purchases of Greek bonds through the ECB. Part of the interest goes to the Bundesbank, which transfers its profits to the German state budget. ”

tagesschau.de (DE) /

We can be happy for Greece

There is every reason to be more optimistic about Greece's future, the tagesschau finds:

“More taxes are being paid and they are being collected through tougher controls. Economic growth has gone up slightly. And the population has proven for years that despite major cutbacks and repeated tax hikes it is willing to keep swimming against the current. Greece has become even more popular as a tourist destination during the crisis. Investors, too, have come to Greece. And not everyone is complaining about the excruciatingly slow bureaucracy and problems but are hoping to be rewarded for taking entrepreneurial risks. ... We who live in the more prosperous countries of Europe should see Greece for what it is and will remain - an important partner in the southeast and a beautiful travel destination with kind people.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Creditors helped themselves

The Frankfurter Rundschau takes stock and isn't impressed:

“Most Greeks have paid bitterly for their country to become 'competitive' once again. Whereby with 'competitive' what is meant is precisely what the German governments have understood by this term for years now: a state should behave like a company. If 'the markets' no longer trust it, it must lower its spending. At the expense of those who are least able to defend themselves. Seen from this perspective the programmes have indeed helped and brought salvation. They have helped the Greek state to service its debts, which has enabled the creditors to help themselves more than anyone else. And they have saved a system that makes states hostages of the financial markets if they don't make cutbacks in their budgets at the expense of the middle and lower classes.”

Macropolis.gr (GR) /

A moment of silence needed after the crisis

It's not yet time to celebrate, writes economics editor Nick Malkoutzis on the website Macropolis:

“For those living through the crisis, the last eight years have produced nothing but adversity. Jobs have been lost, careers have disappeared, homes have been repossessed, businesses have closed, wages and pensions have been slashed, public services have been pared back to a bare minimum and belief has evaporated. Rather than mark the end of the third and final programme with bombastic speeches, ... we should be contemplating the impact the crisis has had on so many people and how we can avoid such an economic disaster from happening again. After all the noise, a moment of silence would be welcome.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The Eurozone's Achilles heel

The euro continues to suffer from the fact that Europe is not a true union, NRC Handelsblad's Europe correspondent Caroline de Gruyter writes:

“Right to the last moment one of the smallest economies in the Eurozone has made clear to the world what the years-long euro crisis teaches us: a monetary union without a political union is not much stronger than its weakest link. ... Relinquishing control over national tax money violates all democratic principles. However, only a few wanted the alternative - the creation of a mature European democracy. ... The countries of the Eurozone wanted to save the euro - from which they profited - at all costs. And that's what they've done: witness the emergency fund and the banking union. But due to the democratic dilemmas they faced, they did it all bilaterally, and rather minimally at that.”