European Commission - Press release
First quarterly report of Commission's Task Force for Greece shows cautious optimism
Brussels, 17 November 2011 - In addition to fiscal consolidation as an important first step on Greece's long road to recovery, the country has also begun a programme of profound structural reform and work towards a more efficient public administration. Following the economic adjustment programme the Greek government has taken some important first steps in this direction over the past 18 months.
Realising the scale of the challenge, the Greek government has requested the support of the European Commission in organising the technical assistance it needs to implement this change process and to accelerate the absorption of EU funds in support of growth and job creation. A Task Force for Greece has been established in response to this request and commenced operations in August 2011 and presented its first report to Commission President José-Manuel Barroso and the Greek authorities on Tuesday. Its work has also been welcomed by the Euro Summit of 26 October 2011. On the occasion of the presentation of the first report, President Barroso said: "Fiscal consolidation should go hand in hand with the structural reforms needed to transform Greece's growth potential and generate the jobs its people so urgently need. We reiterate that our European Institutions will continue to do everything within their power to help Greece . The Task Force set up by the Commission has quickly established good cooperation with the Greek authorities to identify their priority needs. It has mobilised offers of technical assistance from many sides, thus demonstrating the unique European endeavour to support Greece in addressing its challenges."
Following a first request from the Greek authorities, the Task Force could immediately collect and coordinate substantial offers of assistance from Member States, Norway, the EIB, IMF, OECD and others. This support and commitment will need to be sustained over the duration of the adjustment process, as meaningful progress will require sustained ambition and commitment over a number of years and heavy investment of expertise in public sector reform.
The Task Force's first report sets out its work programme and first concrete achievements, notably in three priority areas:
First, sustaining economic activity: Efforts have focussed on improving the planning and accelerating the disbursement of cohesion policy assistance. Particular attention is devoted to a number of delayed public works projects, capable of boosting investment and sustaining many jobs. Access to finance is also a growing concern for many Greek businesses. Part of the cohesion policy assistance is being redirected to support bank lending to SMEs.
Second, ensuring efficient tax administration and sound public finance management: A stronger and fairer tax system will make a significant contribution to fiscal consolidation and social equity. A far-reaching programme of technical assistance has been launched to tackle shortcomings in the Greek system of tax administration and public finance management.
Third, improving the efficiency of public administration: Excessive bureaucracy and administrative formalism chokes business, and hampers growth and job-creation. The Task Force is preparing a coherent programme of technical assistance that Greece needs to implement effective administrative reform; improve the business environment; increase efficiency in delivery of public health; and improve performance of basic administrative functions such as public procurement and payments.
Horst Reichenbach, Head of the Task Force for Greece, has now submitted the first quarterly report on its activities to President Barroso and the Greek government. It will also be made available to Member States and European Parliament. The focus now is on finalising, with the Greek authorities, a comprehensive road-map of technical assistance. In a number of priority areas such as tax administration and administrative reform, the report shows how work is already moving into the implementation phase.
Vice-President Olli Rehn, who supervises the work of the Task Force, welcomed the first report, underlining that "the Task Force is a tool at the disposal of the Greek government. Its success depends on the determination of the Greek authorities to use it to support the transformation of the Greek economy."
The Task Force for Greece commenced operations on 1 st September 2011. Since then, it is working in close contacts with the GR authorities to identify their needs as well as with Member States and international organisations offering technical assistance. It will report quarterly to the Commission and Greek government on progress achieved.
The mandate of the Commission's Task Force is to identify and coordinate all the technical assistance Greece needs to deliver the EU/IMF adjustment programme and to accelerate the take-up of EU funds in Greece, targeting them on measures to boost economic growth, competitiveness, job creation and training. This initiative has been strongly supported by the Heads of State of the Euro area (21 July paragraph 4) which declared that "…Member States and the Commission will immediately mobilise all resources necessary in order to provide exceptional technical assistance to help Greece implement its reforms…" The Euro Summit of 26 October 2011 confirmed: "We fully support the Task Force on technical assistance set up by the Commission."
A programme of technical assistance is being defined on the basis of close cooperation with Greek authorities, so as to respond to their priority needs. Extensive contacts have been undertaken with the most relevant Greek Ministries in order to identify priority areas.
Report available in the President Barroso's website:
Olivier Bailly (+32 2 296 87 17)
Pia Seppälä (+32 2 299 24 88)