Greece was not prepared to deal with the consequences of the energy crisis, stressed the head of the Economy and Investments department of SYRIZA-PS, Alexis Haritsis, speaking at the Economist conference.
He noted that “as of June 2021 in parliament SYRIZA pointed out that Greece had the highest wholesale energy prices and the government then responded that this crisis was just a bump in the road to high growth. And we know what happened in the last year in our country macro-economically, fiscally, to pay the highest prices in Europe”, he commented.
In particular, Mr. Haritsis said that both the Recovery Fund and REPowerEU are tools that can help both Europe and the Member States at the national level, “however, due to the extreme situations we are experiencing, we doubt the way the current government plans to implement it”. He emphasized that this skepticism is based on the fact that the current difficulties of the Greek economy must be recognized and that business as usual should not be followed. “The Recovery Fund and REPowerEU are here, we should not use them the way European funds were used in the past,” he underlined.
Mr. Haritsis pointed out that “we are living in a period of enormous challenges and very serious crises” and “we need to understand that we are not living in normal times and we need to be more radical in our interventions”.
He also emphasized that the most important thing is not that these tools work for the absorption of resources as such, but the main thing is that the final beneficiaries, the businesses and households of Europe and for that matter our country, benefit from these tools.
He also said that the “speed” factor is important and that we need urgent interventions and that we cannot afford to send mixed signals. He noted that all these tools must be treated as a whole, that we need a strategic plan for the Recovery Fund, REPowerEU, NSRF, agricultural policy, “all these must be an integrated plan”, he stressed. He said that “we’re wasting time in the way decisions are made, but the upside is that we have the tools at our fingertips.”
He further argued that “Europe should be more ambitious about ending its dependence on external suppliers” and that some countries such as Germany have played an important role in increasing Europe’s dependence on Russia. He emphasized that we need to end this addiction, but we don’t need to replace it with another addiction, we need to stand on our own feet, on our inner sources. “We want a more ambitious plan in the green reform of the economy, but political will is needed”, underlined Mr. Haritsis.
Describing the wider European picture and the energy sector that is at the core of the crisis, he said that for a long time the way the EU managed its presence at the geopolitical level created many problems, lack of a common defense policy, but also at the economic level. Full economic integration should have happened earlier and important factors of the economy have been affected, he stressed, pointing out that major countries have followed different paths and this is a disadvantage when talking about the integration of the energy market. He stressed that at the same time the EU needed to be more ambitious in its plan to move away from fossil fuels and its dependence on external suppliers, Russia. “The war is going on, Russia’s aggression has a high price for all of us,” he added.
Mr. Haritsis said that the Recovery Fund is the most important step towards this integration that he mentioned above, it is in favor of enlargement, development, it is a European tool that we fully support, that creates a cohesion within Europe. He said he expects REPowerEU which is the next step, to be more ambitious and he would have expected it to be greener and to have come sooner. He said that it is important for Europe for countries like Greece, but raised the question of how countries like Greece can benefit from these tools. Speaking about the priorities of this tool, he noted that energy sufficiency is important for Greece, “but how can Greece follow this energy sufficiency strategy when all energy plans are frozen?”. He said on this that “Save 2020” has paid very little to the beneficiaries, ’21 and ’22 does not even exist and at the same time “the ambitious program ‘Electra’ for public buildings, created by the SYRIZA government, has been abandoned by today’s”.
Regarding the second priority, the diversification of energy resources, he said that at the European level diversification cannot be implemented only through natural gas and that the program must be more ambitious in its green goals. “But at the national level in Greece, can Greece pursue the diversification strategy when the current government has pursued an unrealistic delignitization strategy?” he said, adding “how can we have energy diversification without investing in power generation, storage?”. He noted that the country’s energy plan for the next few years should be reviewed as a whole due to the developments. “So we are concerned about REPowerEU’s priorities in the way the government is handling it.”
Referring to the priority to accelerate the installation of RES, he said that we need to go to a greener economy, we need to stop our dependence on fossil fuels, “but how can we do it on a large scale and quickly, without a legal framework and special planning about RES? These were all initiated by the previous government but have not been completed in the last three years.”
Finally, regarding smart investments, he pointed out that Greece can benefit with 8-9 billion, with the leverage of all of them exceeding 15 billion, however he added that how this funding will be absorbed has not yet been made public. There are some projects proposed by the government, he said, but “they will not make the economy greener, nor will they move us away from dependence on external suppliers and fossil fuels.” “We have to revise this plan,” he said.