A lack of leadership within the European Union has worsened Greece's financial crisis by failing to calm market fears the country might default on its massive debt load, the Greek deputy prime minister said Monday.
Theodoros Pangalos said EU leaders were "not up to the scale of the task" in dealing with the crisis.
He spoke as officials from the EU and the International Monetary Fund were due in Athens to begin a rigorous inspection of Greece's public finances. The EU has given Athens a March 16 deadline to show improvements in its budget or face tougher spending cuts.
"I'm of the opinion that today's Europe has no political leadership," Pangalos told Greece's private Skai Television.
Asked about the financial crisis, he added: "The people who are managing the fortunes of Europe were not up to the task."
"I believe if Delors was in change in Europe, Mitterrand in France and Kohl in Germany ... things would not be the same," he said, referring to former EU Commission President Jacques Delors, late President Francois Mitterrand, and former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Greece's Socialist government has promised to take tougher measures if needed to meet its target for reducing the budget deficit from a projected 12.7 percent last year to 8.7 in 2010 — despite mounting opposition from labor unions, which are planning a general strike Wednesday.
Union protests have already caused fuel shortages. Supply problems eased after customs officials called off a strike late Sunday in the wake of a court decision declaring their protest illegal.
A poll published Sunday by the daily Ethnos newspaper showed an estimated 57.6 percent of Greeks believe austerity measures taken so far are "in the right direction," while 75.8 percent think unions should show restraint until the end of the crisis. No margin of error was given.
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