Brussels, 30 – 10 – 2014
Dear Mr Chrysanthopoulos,
I wish to thank you for your open letter of 22 September commenting on a written reply to a recent parliamentary question on Greece’s economic adjustment programme. Your letter contests the arguments given in the first part of the reply and suggests that the measures set out in the Memorandum of Understanding under the Greek adjustment programme are in violation of human rights and EU legislation.
I am well aware of the very difficult social situation due to the unprecedented crisis in Greece and the European Commission is putting great emphasis on measures to tackle it. While I do not share your assessment, I would like to clarify the content of the reply and the legal arguments behind it.
Firstly, notwithstanding the legal arguments, I do not share the view that there has been any violation of EU or international law and standards under the Greek adjustment programme. The Commission pays great attention to the respect of the principles set in EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and I would like to recall that the European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that the measures adopted by the Greek authorities do not infringe the Convention of Human Rights (inadmissibility decisions of 7 May 2013, in Koufaki/Greece and Adedy/Greece1).
Secondly, as far as the legal situation is concerned, the written reply indicates that programme documents are not EU law but intergovernmental acts. Indeed, the Memoranda of Understanding on specific economic policy conditionality which set out the policy conditions agreed with the Greek authorities for the disbursement of the financial assistance under the programme are not EU acts, but instruments agreed bilaterally between Greece and its Lenders. Therefore, as confirmed by the Court of Justice, when adopting and implementing measures under such an intergovernmental adjustment programme, this is not a matter of national authorities of the concerned Member State implementing EU law (see, by analogy, order of the Court of 26 June 2014, case C-264/122).
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that, in matters such as those you are referring to, where a Member State does not implement EU law, it is for the Member State’s authorities to ensure that their obligations in terms of fundamental rights, whether they stem from international agreements or from their national constitution or legislation, are respected when they take measures, including for the purpose of implementing commitments under such an intergovernmental adjustment programme.
To be exhaustive, allow me to add that this legal situation has evolved since the adoption of the Greek programmes. Under the so-called Two-Pack regulation adopted in 2013, new macroeconomic adjustment programmes prepared by the Member States have to be approved by the Council of the Union and must fully observe EU law, in particular Article 152 TFEU and Article 28 of the Charter.3
Finally, it is also important to bear in mind that, while the Commission contributes to the design of the programme’s broad policy conditionality, the details of the specific measures to comply with it are ultimately decided by the Greek authorities, which have had, and continue to have, ample leeway to decide how and with what measures to comply therewith.The ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the conditions attached to a programme lies with the government of Greece.
VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
3 Regulation (EU) No 472/2013 of 21 May 2013, Article 7.