Brussels, 6 March 2012
Letter from President Barroso to Prime Minister Papademos proposing follow-up actions further to their meeting of 29 February on measures to support jobs and growth in Greece
"Dear Prime Minister,
It was a great pleasure to meet with you on 29 February to discuss in very concrete terms the implementation of the second programme for Greece which we both see as a comprehensive programme for structural reform which will lay the foundations for a new, competitive and dynamic Greece. As my colleagues and I underlined at our meeting, the Commission is ready to support the Greek authorities in taking decisions that can restore confidence and begin the process of revitalising the Greek economy.
As we discussed, there are a variety of steps that should be taken right away to improve the business environment; to support small businesses and young people; and to remove the bottlenecks in public administration and the financial system that are preventing the structural funds from flowing to where they are needed, holding back growth and job creation. The European Commission has already paid more than €8 billion of the €20 billion allocated to Greece since 2007 through the EU structural funds. We are keen to help your authorities target the remaining funds on stimulating growth and competitiveness. For now, there is no shortage of funds but as we discussed there are still too many open questions and administrative hurdles to be overcome before the available funds can reach the real economy. In priority areas we need to identify where the bottlenecks are and decide on how to remove them within a clear timeframe. This often has to be done top down which is why I am prepared to work in partnership with you to get things moving. As immediate follow up to our meeting I would like to propose that our officials work together on the following priority areas:
Working with the EIB, EIF and ETEAN to unblock the €650 million available for SME support to provide much-needed liquidity and risk coverage for rapid use over the next 3 years in favour of small businesses, based on the understanding that the EIB President has agreed to a leverage ratio of 2:1 as regards liquidity. Also working inside the Greek system to unblock the funds that have already been provided to the banking system for on lending to SMEs.
Securing a rapid agreement in the Council and Parliament on the Risk Sharing Instrument to support critical infrastructure projects. Since we expect a positive decision your authorities should continue their preparatory work so that an agreement with concessionaires and banks can be reached, within the shortest delays, on the necessary restructuring of the motorway concessions to ensure their economic viability. On your side, the identification of the funding sources for the risk sharing instrument is now a matter of great urgency. Moreover, our respective services should step up work on the implementation modalities with the EIB so we have clarity on priority projects, in particular the motorway concessions within the shortest delays.
Using the European Social Fund and reprogramming funds where necessary to help get young people back to work. The findings of the recent visit of our Action Team need to be followed up rapidly. This should include actions improving training and work experience opportunities, possibilities to combine training with work and strengthening mobility.
Identifying concrete ways to support the privatisation programme, for example through close cooperation on state aid and other regulatory aspects and through technical assistance where it is needed.
Pursuing Greece's advantages in the energy sector through further work on promising renewable energy projects such as "Helios", the creation of a more open and competitive energy market and the promotion of Greece as a gas hub.
Finding ways to accelerate the absorption of EU funds and to maximise their impact on the real economy. We discussed greater centralisation and there may be other ways to streamline too.
To give these measures real momentum, I propose that the Task Force representatives meet in Athens with officials designated by you to work, jointly with other relevant Commission services, specifically on these issues and to report back to us by 28 March with clear recommendations on actions to be taken under each heading, identification of who is responsible for acting and with a timeline for the resolution of the problems identified.
I look forward to receiving your reactions and support for this follow up to our meeting."