18th Annual Asian Investment Conference

Barroso: Greece should blame itself

Did we hear Grexit? Former EC chief Barroso weighs in
Did we hear Grexit? Former EC chief Barroso weighs in

Greece's problems can be laid at its own door and the country needs to provide a clear commitment to reform to reach an agreement with its creditors, Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission, told investors in Hong Kong.

"The Greek people went through extremely difficult moments, hardship. But these difficulties of Greece were not provoked by Europe," Barroso said in an address at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong.

"It was provoked by the irresponsible behavior of the Greek government."

"The situation of Greece is the result of unsustainable debt that was created by the Greek government, mismanagement of their public finances, huge problems with tax evasion and tax fraud [and] problems of the administration," he said, noting that the country had also misled the European Union by filing false figures on its economy.

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Greece's place in the euro zone has been hanging in the balance since the anti-austerity Syriza Party won elections this year.

Athens' new government has sought to renegotiate the austerity measures imposed on the country as part of its 240 billion euro bailout package. Recent talks over Greece's debt and European Union imposed fiscal austerity have become increasingly tortured.

Barroso was generally unsympathetic to the Greek stance.

"There is nothing that condemns Greece to be in a difficult situation. There are reforms they can make and they are as able as any other country to do," he said.

"There is an ideological difficulty that exists in the Greek government to understand that the way for Greece to recover the confidence of the markets is in fact for to go on with structural reforms that Greece has committed to."

His remarks appear to match impatience seen in current leadership in the European Union.

Following a euro zone finance ministers' meeting about Greece in Brussels on March 9, an exasperated Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem even told Athens to "stop wasting time."

Sniping between Germany and Greece has marred talks over the past weeks, but some bridge building appears to be on the cards. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later on Monday.

And, despite polls suggesting the majority of Germans are willing to let Greece leave the euro, Barroso said the EU itself is committed to keeping Athens in the euro zone.