A group of European Union experts assisting Greece to improve its administration and to unlock further European funding is set to be all but dismantled after the newly elected SYRIZA-led government refused to cooperate with them, officials have told Reuters. As they explain, a possible removal of the technocrats currently working on Greece’s program could dismay countries which have lately lost patience with Athens’ push to abandon reforms as it rejects what many in Greece see as European interference.
The highly unpopular among the Greeks term “troika,” used to describe Greece’s international partners participating in its bailout program, has already been abandoned after Athens’ reactions. The European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) (aka troika) gained negative popularity in Greece during the last five years due to the strict austerity measures it has imposed.
Now the European Commission’s Task Force for Greece, which has among other things, helped the country’s tax inspectors use technology to spot fraud, will be overhauled. Under new thinking, the “task force” is set to be renamed said officials familiar with the matter. Its staff of roughly 50 would move to another part of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, with a broader remit to help any country that needs it, not just Greece, Reuters presses. “Do you need to call it a task force at all?” questioned an unnamed official familiar with the matter, adding that “the thinking is that the model of the task force can be extended to other countries, with similar difficulties.”
The matter has already been tabled during a meeting between the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, while a senior Greek official cited by Reuters has said “that the task force mandate is expiring and it will be replaced by a new institution with the same role but for all member states.”
Set up in 2011 after Greece was bailed out by euro zone countries, the Commission’s task force sought to help the Greek government improve the way it operates. Its 50 staff members helped unlock EU funding, though officials say its work has ground to a virtual standstill in recent weeks. “The Greek government is keeping contact with the task force but we don’t collaborate with them,” another Greek government official said, concluding that “it is a political issue.”