Brussels, 11 March 2014
Sixth Activity Report of the Task Force for Greece: stepping up implementation
The Commission's Task Force for Greece (TFGR) has today published its sixth activity report, covering the period from October 2013 to January 2014 – a period in which important policy reforms have tangibly benefitted from well-targeted and resourced technical assistance.
Vice-President Olli Rehn, responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, said: “The Task Force has continued to provide valuable support to Greece’s efforts to improve the functioning of its administration and improve the business environment, for the benefit of Greek consumers as well as businesses seeking to invest and create jobs. It is also very important that work on the four key motorway projects is now underway. More broadly, the improvement in Greece’s spending of EU funding has been quite remarkable and is good news for the Greek economy and Greek citizens.”
Over half of technical assistance remains concentrated in the areas of tax administration, public financial management and the reform of the central administration. However, technical assistance is also gathering momentum in other fields. These include: the completion of important transport links; the continued modernisation of the Greek administration and healthcare system; support for businesses; and environmental projects such as improving the quality of water.
Boosting the use of EU funding
The TFGR, together with other European Commission departments, has been working very closely with the Greek authorities to better use EU funding to help get important projects off the ground. As a result of this combined effort, Greece has now moved up to 4th place out of all 28 Member States in its spending of structural and cohesion funds, with the latest figures showing the country has now made use of 78.4% of the funding available in the 2007-2013 programming period, which is well above the EU average.
Work on four important motorways with a combined value of €7.6 billion, which was suspended for over three years due to the economic crisis, has now restarted with EU clearance and financial support, backed by the agreement of domestic and international creditors and with a capacity to create some 20 000 jobs. Construction covers some important sections of the Ionian motorway, Maliakos-Kleidi, Elefsina-Korinthos-Patra, and Central Greece motorway. Work and technical assistance have also started on the reset of a fifth motorway concession, Moreas motorway.
Reforming public administration and improving the business environment
Support has continued to be provided, notably through the French domain leader, for efforts to build an efficient and modern central public administration, at the service of citizens and businesses and capable of supporting the implementation of necessary reforms. This is an important part of the work to build a more supportive and investment-friendly business environment in Greece.
Improving health services for the population
The TFGR has continued to work closely with the Greek authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the German domain leader to implement the "Health in Action" strategy on planning and monitoring implementation of structural reforms in the healthcare sector in Greece. The strategy aims both to improve the health of the population and to improve the efficiency of the National Health System. Priorities are to build a network of primary healthcare services and to ensure universal access to care (providing a health safety net for the population). Technical assistance was also provided to help implement the policies agreed in Greece's economic adjustment programme, notably to improve the pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceuticals, as well as the management of the national sickness fund and hospital management.
Getting credit flowing to SMEs
To support financing in the real economy, technical assistance has continued to focus on improving access to finance through the banking system and enhancing liquidity flows, especially for SMEs. The TFGR has provided further support for the creation of an "Institution for Growth" to help fulfil financing needs that cannot be covered by the Greek banking sector, and for which Germany is offering €100 million support.
Strengthening the revenue administration
Improving the functioning of the tax administration is essential to enable Greek authorities to increase public revenues and to deliver a fairer, more equitable distribution of the tax burden. On revenue administration, solid progress was made in terms of re-organising the structure of the General Secretariat for Public Revenue. Technical assistance continued in fraud investigation, debt collection, dispute resolution, transfer pricing and VAT, with a number of Member States and international organisations providing concrete support, such as Belgium and the IMF. On tax policy, the DG TAXUD in close coordination with TFGR stepped up assistance in the preparation of a new Income Tax Code and Tax Procedure Code, which entered into force two months ago.
Combating money laundering
Good progress is being made in implementing the TFGR-supported anti-money laundering training programme, with 700 participants having received training so far. The TFGR also helped to prepare the legislation for an indirect registry of bank accounts, which has now been set up. In terms of support to the Greek law enforcement authorities, technical assistance was stepped up to help boost the capacity of the Financial Intelligence Unit. 1446 cases of suspected tax evasion have now been reported to the authorities, 405 cases have been sent to the Prosecutor´s Office and assets worth €170 million have been frozen since early 2012.
The Task Force for Greece was launched on 20 July 2011 with the mandate to identify and coordinate the technical assistance that Greece has requested in order to deliver reform commitments undertaken in its economic adjustment programme. It also works to accelerate the absorption of EU funds in order to sustain economic growth, competitiveness and employment.
This initiative was supported by the European Council on 21 July 2011, which stated 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 Task Force began its operations in September 2011. Today, it coordinates technical assistance across 12 broad policy domains, each comprising a number of specific projects: acceleration of cohesion policy projects; financial institutions/access to finance; administrative reform; Revenue administration and Public Financial Management; anti-money laundering and anti-corruption; business environment; health reform; judicial reform; labour market, social security, innovation and education; asylum and migration; privatisation and land registry; and network industries and services.
It reports to President Barroso and works under the political guidance of Vice-President Olli Rehn. The Head of the Task Force, Horst Reichenbach, reports regularly on progress to the Greek authorities and to the Commission.
The Task Force consists of around 60 staff and is based jointly in Brussels (30 staff) and Athens (30 staff).
Many Member States – particularly France, Germany and the Netherlands – have also made large numbers of senior experts and officials available.
For more information:
6th activity report:
Link to MEMO: