Introduction by Sergi Cutillas, member of the Truth Committee
In response to the terrible situation in Greece related to its debt, the President of the Greek Parliament decided on April 4, 2015, to constitute a special committee of the Parliament (“The Committee for the Truth on Public Debt”) to investigate the truth about the origin and increase of the Greek public debt, to audit the debt and to promote international cooperation of the Greek Parliament with the European Parliament with parliaments of other states and with international organizations in matters related to debt. The Committee’s agenda aims to address the whole range of aspects, both legal and social and economic, that demand an appropriate consideration in order to raise awareness of the Greek people, the international community and international public opinion on this issue.
21 May by Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt
Originally Published by CADTM
Since May 2010, Greece has been implementing a macroeconomic adjustment programme as a condition for accessing loans from the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank to help it reduce its budget deficit. The programme consists of policy measures that involve deep public spending cuts, public sector job cuts, tax increases, privatization and structural reforms that are apparently aimed at reducing the country’s fiscal deficit and public debt to sustainable levels. However, these internationally recommended measures have pushed the economy into deep recession (the longest experienced in Europe at a time of peace) and millions of Greeks into poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, while grossly undermining the enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic and social rights and the function of public services and infrastructures (schools, hospitals, courts around the country have been closed down or merged in order to secure cuts in public expenses).
In response to this situation and within the framework of the Parliament’s responsibility to the Greek people, on 4 April 2015, the President of the Hellenic Parliament decided to establish a Special Committee of the Greek Parliament to investigate the truth about the creation and the increase of the public debt, the Auditing of the Debt and the promotion of the Hellenic Parliament’s international cooperation with the European Parliament and the Parliaments of other countries and with International Organizations in matters of debt, in order to address the range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration and raise awareness of the Greek population, the international community and the international public opinion (“The Truth Committee on Public Debt”).
This decision was taken pursuant to Articles 49, 162 par. 4 and 5 and 162 A of the Regulation of the Hellenic Parliament, (Parliamentary Part Government Gazette 106 /A /87) as applicable and Articles 98 and 164F of the Regulation of the Hellenic Parliament, (Part II Government Gazette 51/ A/1997) as applicable. It is also in line with Regulation (EU) No. 472/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability, as well as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Foreign Debt and Human Rights (A/HRC/20/23) adopted by the Human Rights Council in July 2012.
Paragraph 9 of Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No. 472/2013 enjoins a Member State subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme to “carry out a comprehensive audits of its public finances in order, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the build-up of excessive levels of debt as well as to track any possible irregularity”. The UN Guiding Principles call upon States to undertake periodic audits of their public debts in order to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of their resources and to inform future borrowing decisions.
The overall purpose of the audit to be carried out by the Truth Committee on Public Debt is to examine the nature and extent of the country’s public debt, as well as the processes relating to the contracting and/or accumulation of the debt and the impact of the cuts or changes in the provision of public services, programmes and benefits on the human rights and welfare of all people living in Greece in order to identify what part or proportion of the debt can be defined as illegitimate, illegal, odious or unsustainable. The periods covered are the Memoranda period, i.e. from May 2010 until January 2015, as well as the years 1990 – 2010. The audit is also designed to contribute to transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s public finances, to formulate arguments and requests concerning the cancellation of the debt and to ensure that potential future borrowing decisions are reached on the basis of informed consent.
The Committee shall be comprised of international members and Greek nationals with recognized competence and expertise or experience in the subject matters of the audit, public debt; human rights protection and transparency guarantees, as well as representatives of the relevant social movements. Members of the Committee will be appointed by the President of the Hellenic Parliament and will not receive any remuneration for their work.
Scope of work
The Committee shall audit the country’s public debt with a particular focus on the agreements, contracts and other means by which debt was acquired, loans were secured and their terms were implemented in order to:
- Determine whether irregularities, violations of the constitution or the law and/or other improprieties occurred with respect of the contracting and/or build-up of the debt;
- Examine the conditions under which the public debt of Greece grew in the period 1990-2010;
- Examine the conditions under which the Memoranda of May 2010 and May 2012 were concluded;
- Determine whether and if so which part of the debt can be deemed illegitimate, illegal, odious or unsustainable;
- Assess the impact of the conditionality measures under the economic adjustment programme on the human rights and welfare of all people living in Greece.
The Committee’s work was inaugurated during a 4-day public procedure in the Hellenic Parliament (4th – 7th April, 2015). An open invitation was launched for the nomination of members additional to those participating to the founding procedure. An initial framework for working groups and terms of cooperation was discussed during a closed session on April 7, 2015. The requirements of the audit work have been assessed and the implementation of the Committee’s mandate will officially commence with the second meeting of its members on May 4th – 7th 2015 and shall continue its work for such a period as will be required for the carrying out of its mandate. The President of the Hellenic Parliament may determine indicative or mandatory deadlines for aspects of the findings. At the conclusion of its work, the Committee will present a written report to the President. The report shall include an executive summary which should be self-explanatory and should include a summary of findings, conclusions and recommendations. The Committee will present information on its preliminary findings in June 2015.