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Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Vice-President Rehn's remarks at the Eurogroup Press Conference
Eurogroup Press Conference/Brussels
13 December 2012
Today's decisions by the Eurogroup mark the conclusion of many long months of uncertainty for Greece. They open the way for a return of confidence, of investment, of growth and job creation for the Greek people.
We have been through quite an odyssey since the spring. At that time, a highly unpredictable political situation had many observers convinced that the game was up for Greece in the euro area. As we approach the end of this turbulent year, those Cassandras have been proved wrong.
They have been proved wrong by Greece, which has shown the necessary determination to get the programme back on track. We would not have reached this point had that resolve been absent.
And they have been proved wrong by the euro area, which has made good on its word to support Greece once Greece delivers on its commitments.
I am well aware of how difficult the present situation is for the Greek people. My message to them is this: the European Union stands by you, and will continue to do so.
There were no easy solutions to the situation Greece found itself in when it requested assistance from its European partners almost 3 years ago. There were only hard truths that had been avoided for too long, and difficult reforms that could be avoided no longer.
The disbursement agreed today will allow for liquidity to begin to flow back into the Greek economy via a recapitalised and reformed banking system. It will pave the way for a return to growth, enhanced by the reforms that are transforming Greece's competitiveness and rendering its labour market both more dynamic and more inclusive.
Now it will be essential to maintain the tempo of reform in the coming months in Greece. Much has been achieved, but much still remains to be done, including the adoption of a comprehensive tax reform and a stepping up of the fight against tax evasion, which is an essential question not only because of public finances but even more so because of social justice, as well as the credibility of Greece.
We also discussed the state of play regarding an economic adjustment and reform programme for Cyprus. The Cypriot authorities have moved swiftly to adopt the fiscal and structural measures agreed with the staff of the Commission, the ECB and the IMF in late November. This is an encouraging sign of Cyprus' determination to do what it takes to ensure fiscal and financial sustainability. We now look forward to receiving by mid-January the final results of the due diligence exercise for Cyprus' banking sector. In parallel, the Commission will continue to work intensively to facilitate a decision on a programme, which we envisage can be taken next month.
Finally, let me say a word on what was achieved last night in the ECOFIN Council. After focusing on the disagreements in the negotiations on the Commission's proposal for a Single Supervisory Mechanism for euro area banks which we presented before the middle of September, let me ask you to ask yourselves: how many people would have believed this time last year that the Council would have agreed on a Single Supervisory Mechanism for euro area banks? Today, this morning, we have put in place an essential building block of the banking union, which next year we will build upon with a proposal for a Single Resolution Mechanism, and with further steps to reinforce our Economic and Monetary Union.