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29 October 2015

New policy brief: is the latest adjustment programme for Greece socially fair?

Greek austerity programme

A new ETUI Policy Brief authored by associate researcher and ‘better regulation’ expert Eric Van den Abeele shows that the Commission’s social impact assessment of the latest support programme for Greece displays a serious absence of methodological rigour.

When the European Commission signed its new Memorandum of Understanding with the Greek government in August, it claimed that it had undertaken a social impact assessment to ensure that the measures demanded from Greece would be socially fair. In a fact sheet accompanying last week’s evaluation of the so-called ‘Five-Presidents’ report’ on a roadmap for completing the Economic and Monetary Union, the Commission reiterated this claim as follows: ‘The Commission prepared the first social impact assessment for the new Greek Memorandum of Understanding. The document shows how social factors have been taken into account, also building on the experience from previous programmes. The Commission intends to accompany any future European Stability Mechanism programme with such a social impact assessment.

The Policy Brief entitled The “variable geometry” approach to “better legislation” takes a different view of the fairness of this social impact assessment of the Greek support programme. Starting out from a critical analysis of the Commission’s ‘better regulation’ agenda, Van den Abeele goes on to examine the Greek case as an example of how the Commission takes advantage of its so-called impact assessment for political purposes.

The author, after analysing the measures imposed on Greece in the two areas of pensions and labour market reforms, concludes that ‘Impact Analysis is a system that operates à la carte. On some occasions the Commission conducts no rigorous impact analysis or no impact assessment at all even though the consequences of a proposal for the real economy and the life of European citizens would demand such analysis (European Semester for instance). In other cases, the expected outcome of a negotiation is overestimated, as was the case with the impact analysis of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).’

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