Former Greek PM: Arab Spring Has Created New Opportunities

George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece, addresses the 12th Annual Herzliya Conference.

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Elad Benari,

Former Greek PM George Papandreou
Former Greek PM George Papandreou
Israel news photo: Herzliya Conference

Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke on Tuesday at the 12th Annual Herzliya Conference.

In November, Papandreou was forced to submit his resignation in light of the financial crisis gripping his country.

“Many in Europe made, I believe, a wrong diagnosis,” Papandreou said of the EU’s financial crisis. “Many believed that this was a Greek problem. Many believed that the Greeks were the problem. This led to simplistic solutions.”

He added that he said, from the beginning of the crisis, that Greeks have to take responsibilities for their failures but that there was also a deeper problem, that the “debt and deficits in the developed world are the tip of the iceberg.”

“I believe that the developed world, albeit with exceptions,” said Papandreou, “is facing a major competitiveness problem with emerging markets. Economic activity is fleeing to Asia, Latin America, parts of the world with obvious advantages.”

He said that he believes Europe is at a crossroads and that integration is required “or we will go into disintegration. I believe in deeper integration and we have things we can do. We have tools.”

Papandreou said that the radical changes brought about by the Arab Spring have created prospects for instability but also for new opportunities.

“This is where Europe should not be absent,” he said. “Solving our internal financial crisis, dealing effectively with the problems of so many countries, particularly in southern Europe –which are just facing on the other side of the Mediterranean the Arab Spring – this would be crucial for the direction the Arab Spring will take.”