August 20th 2022 is a historic day for Greece and for all Greeks: our country exits the EU’s enhanced surveillance framework- in the most official way. Therefore, a 12-year cycle that brought pain to citizens now closes. It brought stagnation to the economy and division in society. Now a new, clean horizon emerges, one of development, unity and prosperity for all.
Today’s development signals the end of the Memoranda and of what was imposed in their name: Unbearable taxes and cuts in wages and pensions, bank controls and mortgaging of public assets, the downgrading of national defense, public education and health, as well as the marginalization of Greece’s position in Europe and the world. All of these, fortunately, now belong to the past.
What also belongs to the past are the wounds that have opened in the backbone of our society these 12 years: fanaticism, fires, violence, as well as tragic deaths, like the deaths at Marfin Bank. The blind undermining of institutions and lies that sprung up, across town squares, next to the poison of Golden Dawn. Four years of demagogy followed, which cost our nation 100 billion euros and pushed the country to the precipice. It took hard battles against populism for the country to remain on a European trajectory.
Only he who does not forget finds the strength to move forward. This is why we must learn from this recent experience. From the longstanding and cross-party responsibilities that led to the Memoranda with extravagances beyond our capabilities. From the policies that exacerbated their consequences, but also from mishandlings that prevented a swifter exit from our international partners’ surveillance.
Greece today is a different Greece. It sees high growth and a big drop in unemployment, which has already decreased by 3 percentage points since last year and by 5 points since 2019. While, at the same time, many taxes that were imposed on the people during those rocky years have been scrapped or eased. Everybody now pays less in social security contributions. And almost everybody pays lower property tax (ENFIA), while the minimum wage has been increased by 63 euros, and the most vulnerable are supported in a targeted way.
I will repeat that the recovery was neither obvious nor easy, given that it was achieved in the midst of consecutive challenges: from migration incursions in Evros and the permanent aggressiveness of our neighbors to the global pandemic and the explosion in energy prices and inflation due to the war in Ukraine. Persistent fronts, for which the State has already allocated 50 billion euros.
And yet, in an uncertain world, our country is moving forward with consistency and the certainty of the outcome. Reinforcing our armed forces with state-of-the-art equipment and our diplomacy with dynamic initiatives. Taking public education and health to new heights. Increasing total revenues thanks to a better-than-expected performance by the economy. Transforming Greece into an immense work site with hundreds of large and small-scale projects. And digitizing the state to such an extent that we have forgotten how our lives were before gov.gr.
Exiting the enhanced surveillance framework means greater national leeway in our economic choices. But it does not mean a return to the mistakes that brought about the painful adventure of the Memoranda. Besides, what I mentioned before is exactly due to a prudent policy, that uses up the fiscal space without undermining the future. With prudent measures that increase the collective wealth to the benefit of the whole of society.
We forge ahead without forgetting. Because we now know that lower taxes lead to growth and that investments lead to new jobs. We know that Europe does not only have the aspect of control, but also that of solidarity that strengthens the position of the country. And that in the end, economic independence goes hand in hand with national independence. Just like the progress of the state can be translated into supporting and benefiting every Greek household.
Therefore, these last three years constitute, in practice, a response to the lessons of the last 12 years. They show the way so that we never, ever, go back to what we have lived through. They forge our self-awareness. And they urge us to move ahead united, armed with the truth and realistic solutions, and not with lies and easy denials. On a course that may entail mistakes but is definitely not a wrong path!
In the difficult years that preceded, our people have suffered a lot. But they have also proved many things. Thanks to their sacrifices, our country swiftly got back on its feet. The mishaps have become lessons of mature responsibility in our political behavior. And when needed, Greek women and men showed trust and joined forces with the state and the responsible stakeholders, against common threats. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Tomorrow can and must be fairer. With more opportunities for everyone. So that we don’t experience another brain drain of our youth. So that women can live and work with safety and equality. So that people with disabilities and every vulnerable person can feel they are cared for by the state. In a country of established rights and well-paying jobs. A country with an open education and a dignified health system. We can make it happen.
Today the government, even before it completes its first 4-year term, is writing the final credits to this long ordeal. Let’s turn them into a prologue to a new fascinating course. With the first stop being to regain the investment grade. With the National Recovery Plan as a steady compass that will build a strong, modern and self-reliant Greece. With stability, continuity and consistency.