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Brussels, 14 May 2012

Remarks of European Commission Vice-President Rehn at the Eurogroup press conference of 14 May 2012

Regarding progress on the implementation of the programmes of Ireland and Portugal, I'm pleased to say that both programmes are on track, and the re-balancing towards an expanding export sector continues in both countries.

Concerning The Netherlands, we endorsed the budget deal reached by several political parties at the end of last month. This is a very important agreement, and one that sends a strong signal of commitment to keeping Dutch public finances on a strong and sustainable footing with a view to securing the welfare of future generations. This budget deal also confirms the strong Dutch tradition of sound public finances, reflecting a deeply-rooted stability culture. It underlines the strength and credibility of domestic institutions in not shying away from difficult choices that inevitably have to be made.

We also commented on the quality of fiscal consolidation measures in The Netherlands because they are mostly of a permanent nature, and have a structural impact, such as reforms related to the labour market, the healthcare sector, as well as the housing market.

The Spanish Economy Minister De Guindos presented the reform the banking sector which sets out important actions that should dispel the lingering doubts about its stability. Indeed a prompt and profound reform of the banking sector is a cornerstone of Spain's crisis response and its overall reform strategy.

This comes in addition to the determined fiscal consolidation and front-loaded structural reforms that can bring sustainable growth and more and better jobs, which are our top priority.

We also encouraged Spain to speed up the independent evaluation of bank balance sheets and assets.

It is clear that we want Greece to stay in the euro and return to sustainable growth and sound public finances in line with the programme of economic reform and fiscal adjustment.

The EU-IMF programme is a very substantial expression of solidarity and support for Greece by the other 16 euro area Member States. It is, in fact, a 'Solidarity Pact' between the other 16 euro area Member States and Greece; between the parliaments of the other 16 euro area Member States and the parliament of Greece. This is what Europe is about. But solidarity is a two-way street.

It is a pact that calls for the respect of the commitment by both the euro area Member States, but also by the Greek Government and Parliament.

Without the Greek commitment, this Solidarity Pact won't work, and this is the responsibility of Greek politicians at this very critical juncture.

Hence, the future of Greece and the welfare of its citizens lies more than ever in the shoulders of Greek politicians to respect their part of the Solidarity Pact.

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