José Manuel Dur ã o Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Lucas Papademos, Prime Minister of Greece
Brussels, 21 November 2011
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I'm very pleased to welcome Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to the European Commission today. Prime Minister, your visit to Brussels so soon after taking office sends a strong message of your commitment to working closely with the European Commission .
I want to congratulate you very sincerely on your election by the Parliament as Prime Minister of Greece. I know it requires courage to assume this kind of responsibility at this very difficult moment in your country.
The agreement to form a national unity government backed by a broad political consensus is a vital signal of the need for political stability in Greece at this crucial time. The situation is extremely serious, more so perhaps than at any point in the last eighteen months. Political determination and resolve are more important than ever to enable Greece to stay the course towards economic reform and renewal.
There are two essential objectives for the coming months. Firstly, a second programme of financial assistance to Greece for the next three years must be concluded by the end of this year. Secondly, the voluntary bond exchange with private sector investors should take place as planned at the beginning of 2012.
The immediate task is to take the necessary steps for the sixth disbursement to be released as soon as possible. It is also crucial that the new government sends a clear signal that it will not waver from setting its debt on a steady downward path. The statements made by the Prime Minister on this in the last few days have been extremely important. Fiscal consolidation should go hand in hand with the structural reforms needed to transform Greece's growth potential and generate new jobs.
I have assured the Prime Minister that we are doing everything in our power to help him and to help Greece. We have mobilised resources, though our Task Force for Greece, like never before. The Task Force is working well with the Greek authorities. Horst Reichenbach joined our meeting today and outlined the comprehensive roadmap of technical assistance that is needed in priority areas such as tax administration and administrative reform.
I know these are extremely difficult times for many Greek citizens. I do not underestimate the pain that the necessary cuts in public spending are causing. But sometimes in life we have to take difficult decisions. The alternatives are certainly much worse. I do hope and trust that the Greek people will support this transitional government and understand why these hard choices are needed.
I want to say on my own behalf and on behalf of the European Commission, also on behalf of Vice-President Rehn who was today in our meeting with Prime Minister Papademos, that we will put the best of our resources to support the Greek Government and the Greek efforts, but for that, of course, a condition is necessary – that Greece wants to help itself; that Greece promotes the real broad national consensus. The situation demands this national consensus and I have said it several times before - that in these times, that are so exceptional, some exceptional solutions have to be found and that I fully trust the determination of the Greek people in building that national consensus.
Once again I would like to congratulate you, Prime Minister, on your appointment. I know that Mr Papademos has taken on what might be described as a Herculean task, but I know that with his expertise and credibility he has the ability to make it possible, of course counting on the support of the Greek people.
I thank you.