EU is not helping financial crisis, say Greeks

Greece blamed the rest of Europe for not helping its crippling financial crisis today.

A lack of leadership within the EU made things worse by failing to calm market fears the country might default on its massive debt load, the Greek deputy prime minister said.

Theodoros Pangalos said EU leaders were “not up to the scale of the task”.

He spoke as officials from the EU and the International Monetary Fund arrived in Athens to examine Greece’s public finances. The EU has given Athens a March 16 deadline to show improvements in its budget or face tougher spending cuts.

“I’m of the opinion that today’s Europe has no political leadership,” he said.

Asked about the financial crisis, he added: “The people who are managing the fortunes of Europe were not up to the task.”

“I believe if Delors was in change in Europe, Mitterrand in France and Kohl in Germany ... things would not be the same,” he said, referring to former EU Commission President Jacques Delors, late President Francois Mitterrand, and former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Greece’s Socialist government has promised to take tougher measures if needed to meet its target for reducing the budget deficit from a projected 12.7% last year to 8.7% in 2010 – despite mounting opposition from labour unions, which are planning a general strike for Wednesday.

Union protests have already caused fuel shortages. Supply problems eased after customs officials called off a strike yesterday in the wake of a court decision declaring their protest illegal.

A poll in the daily Ethnos newspaper showed an estimated 57.6% of Greeks believe austerity measures taken so far are “in the right direction,” while 75.8% think unions should show restraint until the end of the crisis. No margin of error was given.

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