During a recent visit to Atlanta, Angelos Pangratis, acting head of the European Union's delegation in Washington, discusses the recent financial problems in Europe.

The European Union, which was designed to ensure the economic stability of member states, has proven its worth during the financial crisis of recent weeks, the acting head of the EU’s delegation in Washington, Angelos Pangratis, told GlobalAtlanta.

As Greece and several other European nations struggle to make payments on national debt, the EU and the International Monetary Fund earlier this month approved a $940 billion stabilization plan.

“Solidarity is really the basis on which the whole EU is built,” Dr. Pangratis, who was born in Greece, said in an interview on May 13, “Europe Day,” at the Georgia Institute of Technology‘s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. “The EU took extraordinary measures reacting to the crisis, supporting Greece. I think there is no question that solidarity is there and as strong as ever.” 

Although there was speculation that Greece would default on its debt and the euro currency would collapse, the EU has been able to contain the crisis, Dr. Pangratis pointed out.

“What we have seen is a European Union that has, fantastically, been able to act and react,” he said. “I think the EU will be walking out of this crisis stronger than before. “

The debt crisis did, however, illustrate the need for stronger EU safeguards to prevent member nations from ever again taking on such excessive debt, said Dr. Pangratis, who also spoke at an Atlanta Council on International Relations luncheon.

“Public authorities were not able to have a monitoring, a supervision of what the markets were doing, so as to prevent it,” he said. “So things went a little bit out of hand. The answer of course, is to make the [safeguards] stronger. That is what is happening.”

One of the major purposes of the EU is to ensure that member states are both fiscally responsible and economically competitive, he added.

“It does not mean that the Greek economy has to be overnight as efficient and competitive as the German economy,” he said. “But it means that Greece has to be on the path of increased competitiveness that makes the whole system sustainable. We have the mechanism to try to achieve that.”

Greece, as a requirement of the bailout package, is raising taxes and cutting wages and pensions of government workers.

Although the value of euro, the common currency of 16 of the 27 EU nations, has declined during the crisis, it remains stable, said Dr. Pangratis.

“We still have states that intend to join the euro,” he said. “And nobody is thinking to walk out of it.”

He predicted that the financial crisis will create even stronger ties between the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. is one of the largest contributors to the International Monetary Fund which has been a key player in the EU rescue plan.

“There are plenty of global challenges on which the EU and the U.S. are developing every day indispensable partnerships,” he said. “We know that we are using too many resources, which are limited. We need the green economy to be much greener than today.”

Personal links, such as those established through sister city programs, are more valuable than ever, he added.

“They are extremely important,” he said. “They are preparing the future as it should be, a future where the EU and the U.S. become every day more and more closely connected, working on the big challenges of humanity, only one of which is the financial crisis.”