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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Lucas Papademos, Greek Prime Minister
Brussels, 29 February 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
It was indeed a great pleasure to have held this important and constructive meeting with the Prime Minister and our colleagues from the Commission and the Greek government.
Let me begin by paying a sincere tribute to Prime Minister Papademos, who has skilfully steered his country through incredibly rough waters these past few months.
The aim of this meeting was simple: to see how we can work more effectively together to enable Greece to make the most of its cohesion funding at this critical time and also to see how we can with this reinforced monitoring and reinforced technical assistance do more to create hope, hope for Greece. We want to seize this moment to help get the Greek economy moving again.
I believe this is the right moment to step up our work on growth for Greece. The second programme has been agreed in principle. It will be formally launched next month, provided the agreed conditions are met and the private sector bond exchange is successful. And I am very confident that this will be the case.
The second programme has a very strong focus on reforms that we believe will transform the capacity of the Greek economy to generate growth and jobs.
It is important that this is recognized, so that the second programme does not, like the first, suffer from misperceptions as being all about fiscal consolidation. Of course fiscal consolidation is indispensable but this is not just a programme of fiscal consolidation, it is a programme for structural reforms, competitiveness and growth in Greece.
What we are doing is working with Greece to help address deep-seated problems of competitiveness, problems which had simply become unsustainable.
This is a huge task. None of us underestimate the scale of the challenges or the obstacles that still lie ahead.
But I believe progress is being made. But we must realise that even if implementation is swift and effective, it will take time for the full benefits of these reforms to be felt. They are structural reforms that take some time to produce results.
And I believe that most of the Greek people, most of the people in Greece understand that as in other countries that are now very exposed, they also understand that.
But the question now is how can we accelerate some programs which can give concrete support for Greece: support for growth, support for creation of jobs and also to mitigate the social impact of some of the measures.
That is why it was important to have this meeting today. Not that the Commission's support to the Greek adjustment efforts only started today! The Taskforce for Greece, which I set up some months ago, is on the ground and is already making good progress in providing technical assistance and helping to make sure that we make the most of the EU structural funds. But I believe that more can be done.
There are over 20 billion euros in structural funding available to Greece for the 2007-2013 period. We have already released more than 8 billion euros in payments but there is scope for doing much more before 2013. And we are already giving the priority to the payments to Greece.
This means also that we need to get essential growth-enhancing projects off the ground. We have identified a number of these which could give a particular boost to investment and employment.
So, helping Greece is not necessarily about increasing the financial envelope for the country. It is mainly about using effectively and swiftly what we have.
And we should have no illusions: the crucial part of the solution is of course in the hands of the Greek government, the Greek administration and, at the end, the Greek people.
The Commission is fully ready to help the Greek authorities in this regard. We also want to help ensure that funding reaches the real economy as quickly as possible and it is not held up by administrative obstacles or not passed on to the real economy by banks. That is why we have discussed today many concrete issues, for instance the SME Guarantee Fund, the Risk Sharing Instrument - projects that are more advanced than others. Prime Minister Papademos and myself, at the end of the next month of March will make an assessment of progress in these and other areas. Many concrete areas that were exposed on the Greek side and also by the different Commissioners and also the participation of the Head of the Taskforce and the several Director Generals.
To conclude: I know there are doubts – outside Greece and sometimes also inside Greece – about the success of this programme. But my question is the following: Why shouldn't Greece be able to do it? Why not? I believe Greece is perfectly able to make these efforts for structural reforms. We have seen in other countries that this was possible, so Greece can, I am sure, do it, and I am sure that we together can make it successful. That is why I want to conclude by thanking you very much, Prime Minister and also expressing I hope, in my not very good Greek, the following:
Ναι η Ελλάδα μπορεί [Yes, Greece can (make it)]
Μαζί Ελλάδα και Ευρώπη μπορούμε [Together Greece and Europe can (make it)]