EU COMMISSIONER Olli Rehn has issued a statement calling on Greece to pass its €28bn austerity package, despite the plan’s unpopularity.
Rehn says that Greece faces a “critical juncture”, but must pass its package because the future of Greece and the financial stability of Europe in general “are at stake”.
The commissioner was clear that there is no other option open to Greece in avoiding a default:
The only way to avoid immediate default is for parliament to endorse the revised economic programme. The programme includes both the medium-term fiscal strategy and the privatisation programme. They must be approved if the next tranche of financial assistance is to be released.
To those who speculate about other options, let me say this clearly: there is no Plan B to avoid default.
The European Union continues to be ready to support Greece. But Europe can only help Greece if Greece helps itself.
All in all, the Greek people and their democratic representatives now face a critical choice. Reforming the economy is certainly challenging, but it remains a far better alternative than a default, which would hit the most disadvantaged and vulnerable hardest. I therefore call on Greece’s political leaders to assume this responsibility, and at the same time to look for next steps and to create a necessary political consensus, taking the whole nation forward to overcome the current challenges.
Rehn also said that the package was about “social justice”, including fighting tax evasion and developing entrepreneurship in support of “honest work”.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Athens today at the start of a 48-hour general strike in protest against the austerity package. The Greek parliament is due to vote on the measures tomorrow and on Thursday.