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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement following the meeting with Greek Prime Minister

George Papandreou

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Joint press point

Brussels, 17 March 2010

I would like to welcome Prime Minister Papandreou to the Commission: we have been closely in contact, we have met in the European Council and in other occasions. I welcome the fact that now we have the opportunity to go more in detail on some of the important issues that we had to discuss.

I would prefer that this meeting took place in easier times, but I nevertheless want to express my support and full solidarity with Mr Papandreou's government and the Greek people.

We have discussed the preparations for the next European Council -including Europe 2020, financial reform and the G-20.

Our main topic was obviously the economic situation in Greece. We are in a calmer situation now than we were some weeks before. This has only been possible because of the remarkable efforts over the last couple of months by Prime Minister Papandreou and his government.

Thanks to a substantial package of bold measures of fiscal consolidation, Greece is on track to achieve the ambitious target of 4% deficit reduction in 2010. This is a remarkable achievement in its own right.

Restoring economic growth and consolidating public finances are two sides of the same coin. There can be no sustainable economic growth and job creation, nor sustainable social welfare, if a nation’s public debt continues to spiral out of control.

I want to say to the Greek people that these efforts are needed, not to please Brussels or the European partners –or the markets– but first and foremost for the future of Greek pensions, Greek public services, the financing of schools and hospitals, to invest in new sources of economic growth and for the prosperity of Greece and its people. I want to stress that our rules and the Euro are there to help not hinder getting Greece back to track.

Yesterday, ECOFIN Ministers fully endorsed the Commission's assessment of the Greek situation.

They also clarified the modalities of a coordinated assistance to Greece, should that be necessary. The Commission has been actively working with Euro area member states to design such a European mechanism of coordinated assistance. Prime Minister Papandreou has confirmed again today that this is not necessary, at this stage.

We also discussed reinforced economic surveillance: the financial and economic crisis has made the case more clearly than ever on the need to reinforce economic policy coordination and country surveillance in the euro area, based on the new article 136 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Commission will make proposals on this in the next month.

I know that Prime Minister Papandreou is working day and night to turn this situation around. And it is starting to show results. I want once again to tell Mr Papandreou that I have a great personal empathy for your great country, great civilisation, great culture and people. The Commission will always stand with you.

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