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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement of President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Georgios Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece
Brussels, 6 December 2010
Good afternoon Ladies and gentlemen,
It was a pleasure to meet once more my good friend Prime Minister Papandreou. It is always a pleasure to have this opportunity to discuss the European issues with him. We have discussed in a really good and open manner the full range of issues and preparations for the next European Council.
I want to pay tribute to what Prime Minister Papandreou has achieved since taking office. He has "grasped the "nettle" of economic reform in his country. He is delivering not just committing. The Commission stands fully behind the efforts of his Government. I am fully aware that these are tough times for Greek citizens and we are doing everything possible to show our solidarity.
Greece is on track to deliver on its reform agenda. Significant progress has been made, particularly in reducing the fiscal deficit, on reliability of statistics and key reforms on pensions and the labour markets.
The economy should improve in 2011. Wage and price inflation is beginning to moderate, setting the stage for improvements in competitiveness and the current account balance.
The 2011 budget includes measures amounting to 5.75% of GDP which should suffice to meet the deficit target. Health spending, state-owned enterprises and tax administration reform are priority areas.
After a positive assessment of compliance with programme conditionality, I expect the Eurogroup to approve the release of the next tranche of the loan of EUR 6.5 billion on 19 January 2011, which will be on top of the IMF disbursement due at the end of December.
Obviously further efforts will be needed in 2012-2014. Therefore it is essential that Greece continues to show the same strong commitment that we have seen over recent months both in terms of consolidating public finances and implementing key structural reforms.
I want to say a word of solidarity to the Greek people. I understand their indignation. I understand how difficult some of those measures are, but the situation in fact requires courage and good reforms in order to put the growth of Greece on a sustainable path. These are indeed historic times for Greece and the European Union as a whole. These are extremely difficult measures to take by all governments in Europe and I understand how difficult some of those measures are, but the truth is that without this kind of measures there will not be a possibility for a structural, consolidated, sustainable growth in Greece, a country that we very much respect.
We keep our strong involvement in these developments. Commissioner Rehn and Commissioner Hahn will both be in Athens this week. Both will be looking to find the best way in which we can support the efforts of the Greek authorities. We are there to help Greece, to show our solidarity.
We also discussed the issues on the European agenda and I also want to pay tribute to the commitment and the support of Prime Minister Papandreou, the support of Greece for the Community method, to the European institutions, to a truly European approach. We need that in Europe – a strong commitment to our project. We need leadership at all levels – from the European institutions of course, but also from national governments. This is a project, where all stakeholders have to show their commitment. This is a project of solidarity and responsibility and for that we need the continuous support of our national leaders and I know that Prime Minister Papandreou is a committed European.
I have seen in the European Council the contributions he has made to this sense of solidarity and responsibility. We will have very important discussions in the future and I hope to count on the support of Greece for this ambition for a stronger European Union, a Union that should be based on those two principles that I have mentioned among others, but I think it is important to highlight the idea of solidarity and the idea of responsibility.