The problems of Europe and the Eurozone were wider than the debt crisis in Greece, as reflected by the Eurozone leaders' decision for a permanent financial assistance mechanism, Greece's Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis stressed in an interview broadcast by the BBC programme HARDtalk on Tuesday. "Scape-goating Greece is not the answer," he told HARDtalk's Tim Franks, while insisting that the Greek government and Greek people had demonstrated both the necessary political will and a readiness to make sacrifices in order to bring about essential changes and reforms.
He highlighted the need for tax reforms in Greece, noting that the revised tax system paid more attention to assets than declared income in a bid to combat tax evasion. He especially highlighted the need for a change in tax culture, reporting a small "cultural revolution" in Greek attitudes to paying taxes and action to usher in a much fairer tax system.
Lambrinidis conceded that Greece was unique in that it had "an explosive combination of debt and deficit" but insisted that Europe had structural problems that ran deeper, as shown by recent attacks on the credit ratings of large European economies like Italy.
Lambrinidis noted that until now, Greeks had been called to make sacrifices and European tax-payers to put up money that seemed to be going nowhere because the debt problem was not a purely Greek problem but a European problem that required a European solution in order to be stabilised.
The Eurozone's new bailout package of 150 billion euro for Greece would give the necessary stability for Greece to carry out tough reforms without pressure from markets or anyone else, he added, noting that the recent decisions of the Eurozone summit had begun to address Europe's problems effectively.
The minister underlined that Greece's goal now was to convert the deficits that increased debt to primary surpluses in the next two years, noting that the government had succeeded in reducing the deficit by 5 percentage points in 2010 alone, a feat unprecedented by any European economy.