Greece cannot take any more austerity as it will cause more social unrest and lessen the chance of an economic recovery, a United Nations debt expert said on Monday.
Greeks overwhelmingly rejected conditions of a rescue package from creditors on Sunday, throwing the future of the country’s euro zone membership into further doubt and deepening a standoff with lenders.
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the UN Independent Expert on Foreign Debt, told reporters in Beijing that Greece’s creditors in the European Union should have paid more attention to what international law says on the matter of debt.
“I have the impression that the EU had forgotten that international human rights law plays and should play a key role in finance. The international community attaches great importance to the interlinks between human rights and finance,” said Bohoslavsky, who operates under the auspices of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“The message here is that if the parties involved in the Greek tragedy paid more serious attention to what human rights law has to say, everything would be easier, for the Greek population particularly,” he added.
Bohoslavsky said the austerity demanded of Greece had not worked, adding he will visit Greece later in the year.
“It’s very clear the message from the Greek population – no more austerity measures. Actually if you look at the figures, austerity measures didn’t really help the country to recover.”
In a separate statement, Bohoslavsky said he was concerned at reports of food and medicine shortages, and that he was asking to meet EU officials to remind them of their human rights obligations to Greece.
Bohoslavsky, visiting at the invitation of China’s government, said he carried a message of the need for human rights to be considered in global lending, something important for China which is setting up two new multilateral lenders – the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank.
“A narrow idea of efficiency in which human rights plays a limited role should not find its way into these two banks,” he said.
China has promised that the infrastructure bank will follow global best practices in transparency and governance.
Rights groups often criticise China for its “no-strings” loans to countries, especially in Africa, for encouraging corruption and abuses with a lack of oversight.