Monday, October 26, 2015

France Will Modernize Greece!

Further to my recent article on the new Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), which replaced the EU Task Force for Greece (TFGR) earlier this year, we now have the first evidence of the SRSS in action and it looks rather promising.

Here is the Protocol between the Hellenic Republic and the French Republic for a partnership for reforms in the Hellenic Republic. The signatories are no less than the Finance Ministers of both countries and they signed in the presence of the Greek Prime Minister and the French President. So this is more than just another document!

Just like with the TFGR, the SRSS facilitates the availability of the most competent resources in other EU countries to assist Greece. France has been selected to assist Greece with Central Administrative Reform, Tax Reform, Privatization and Public Asset Management. The protocol lists rather detailed goals and objectives. They all sound great!

The goals and objectives which the TFGR had stated after it was formed in late 2011 also sounded great. In fact, in would be interesting to make a point-by-point comparison. Chances are that the goals and objectives are rather identical. Why did the TFGR fail? For one: it never had the full commitment of the Greek leadership behind it; or to use the standard speak: it was never 'owned' by the Greek leadership.

This could now, indeed, be different. First, it is the political leaders of both countries who put their names on the line and certainly the French President will not want to end up as godfather of failure. Secondly, the glory of French Civil Service would suffer a blow if it failed in Greece. Thirdly, and because of that, the French will undoubtedly put pressure on the Greeks to cooperate instead of remaining passive like the TFGR had remained. Finally, and because of these points, PM Tsipras will have quite a bit of ammunition to counter resistance which he may receive from within his party.

But there is also cause for being cautious with one's expectations. 180 years ago, Otto, after having been made King of the Greeks, brought a few thousand top Bavarian civil servants to Greece who were going to show the Greeks how to administer the country, how to collect taxes, etc. Well, the Greeks, instead, showed the Bavarians what 'resistance' means and the Bavarians had to literally flee the country after a few years.

Once again, I find myself in a situation where something new, be it a project or a person, has come up and I am getting excited about positive new developments in Greece and the promise they hold for Greece's future. If Ronald Reagan could observe me from heaven, he would probably say: "Here he goes again!"


  1. It IS just another document, Dombrovsky has produced a similar one. As long as Syriza MP's and ministers, day after day, tell the media that the bad Europeans are cutting their wages and pensions, it just won't work.
    It is so much easier just to say OCHI, you don't have to think. In Greece the word signify strength, in other countries it signify weakness.
    In one of my first jobs my boss told me "we only use the no word in combination with a proposal of what else to do".

  2. Thank You For Your Optimism Mr. Kastner. Positive energy from a person like yourself is most welcome.

    I am hopeful that being "assisted" by french rather than German greeks will react differently.

    But as i have said many times the 1st priority are the privatizations. Those few which are ready must be released asap.


    1. I don't think the Germans ever 'assisted' in these areas. Already under the TFGR, if I recall correctly, it was France which was determined to be best capable of assisting Greece in the areas of public administration, taxes, etc.. Except, I don't think anything ever came out of it.

  3. Klaus, since it is restricted to three central fields, administration (apparently an important issue), tax and privatization, I wonder. Maybe it is a shortened version?

    But concerning the first, the administration, and its good sounding phrases like inter-operation, between different sectors of government, as I read it:

    assess the quality of services provided to citizen including through a more effective one stop shop (KEP) approach; revision of the targeted services.

    What I am missing is 4) the legal context.
    Διοικητικό Δίκαιο / Administrative Law.

    What is transparency, accountability, e-government that no doubt is a service or citizen oriented administration worth without a solid legal framework defining both the rights of the administration and the right of the average citizen?

    Or was the legal field never a problem???

  4. Greece doesn't need any help or know-how in order to modernize it's public administration. If it wanted to, it would have done so a long time ago. It just doesn't want to. So here we are in the year 2015, in the age of automation and electronic communications, doing as much paperwork as ever in modern Greece. Humiliating, unsettling and depressing. No wonder things leave this country: deposits, businesses, workers, you name it. Everybody and everything has every incentive to leave, and Greece will be left with a skeleton of nothing, weeping for it's tragic fate. It will be somebody else's fault, as usual, but the truth is that Greece brought this on herself by following disastrous economic and social policies.

  5. The only dates I could see were the date the document was signed and one for when Greek administrators would attend French universities. A plan without implementation dates is hardly worth the paper it's written on.

    Hollande will be out of office in 18 months, I doubt Sarkozy will have much truck with Syriza (assuming they're still in power). Especially if Sarkozy wins off the back of Marine Le Pen supporter votes

    Greece should be looking to smaller countries that have shown themselves to be nimble at implementing reforms and whose economies have an upward trend - like Estonia and Poland. Rather than behemoths like France with its sagging economy.

  6. Every day, Greece allows thousands of euros to slip through its fingers as ships anchor illegally in Vatika Bay and pay no port fees. The nearby legitimate port of Kalamata suffers as savvy shipowners anchor their vessels in the once pristine Bay, home of the oldest underwater city in the world Pavlopetri. How can these polluting ships be forced to anchor in a legitimate port and pay the Greek government the fees to which it is entitled?