Debts Crisis Could Destroy Democracies Says EU Chief

Article excerpt

Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent

DEMOCRACY could 'collapse' in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned. Jose Manuel Barroso set out an 'apocalyptic' vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse.

Details of his briefing to trade union chiefs emerged as it was revealed that EU leaders have begun work on an emergency bailout package for Spain, which is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

A [pounds sterling]650billion bailout for Greece has already been agreed. John Monks, former head of the TUC, said he had been 'shocked' by the severity of the warning from European Commission president Mr Barroso, who is a former prime minister of Portugal.

Mr Monks, now head of the European TUC, said: 'I had a discussion with Barroso last Friday about what can be done for Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest and his message was blunt, "Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it."

'He's very, very worried. He shocked us with an apocalyptic vision of democracies in Europe collapsing because of the state of indebtedness.' Greece, Spain and Portugal, which only emerged from dictatorships in the 1970s, are all facing dire problems with their public finances. Each has a history of military coups.

Greece has been rocked by a series of national strikes and riots this year following the announcement of swingeing cuts to public spending designed to curb its deficit.

Spain and Portugal have also announced austerity measures in recent weeks amid growing signs that the international markets are worried they could default on their debts. Other EU countries seeing public protests over austerity plans include Hungary, Italy and Romania.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who visited Madrid last week, said the situation in Spain should serve as a warning to Britain of the perils of failing to tackle the deficit quickly. Mr Barroso's warning lays bare the concern at the highest level in Brussels that the economic crisis could lead to the collapse of not only the beleaguered euro, but the EU itself, along with a string of fragile democracies. …