Collective bargaining must be restored in Greece, Dijsselbloem tells Papadimoulis

Collective bargaining is a European best practice and should be restored in Greece, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Tuesday, replying to SYRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis.

Speaking during a discussion with MEPs on the European Parliament’s Economic and Financial Affairs Committee, Dijsselbloem referred back to the agreement in the summer of 2015, which said that labour market reforms in Greece must not be reversed. He said that the advice of a group of experts was sought on the “best practices” that Greece’s labour market must follow in the future.

This group of experts had reached the conclusion that collective bargaining was a European best practice and must be restored in Greece, he said.

At the same time, Dijsselbloem noted, in some countries there were criteria of representativeness in collective bargaining and these criteria were now under discussion between Greek authorities and the institutions.

“The opinion of the experts’ group was absolutely clear. Let us see how the process unfolds,” he added.
In response to a question about Greece’s debt, Dijsselbloem pointed out that the medium-term debt relief measures will be implemented after the Greek programme is successfully concluded, in the second half of 2018, but promised to discuss the issue with the IMF over the coming weeks.

The Eurogroup president noted that the implementation of reform programmes in Greece had been slow at the start of the crisis but its public finances were now in a much better state, though the economy had taken a pounding. He stressed that the Greek programme was far from completed and that “it will take many years” to strengthen structures and bring about a full recovery. This was possible, he added, and an effort was being made by the Greek government.

Regarding differences of opinion between the IMF and European Commission about economic growth in Greece, Dijsselbloem said the IMF was more pessimistic but the last quarter downturn in 2016 “had shown it was right.”

He said Greece was now in a phase of “unstable growth” and that, in order to create stability, Greece’s economy must start to open and become stronger. “What is needed is a lot of confidence on the part of investors, which is not yet so strong,” he said.