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[Check Against Delivery]
Commissioner for Regional Policy
Speaking Notes: Meeting with Stakeholders on 2014-2020 use of EU investments under Regional Policy
Larissa, Greek Region of Thessaly, 24 July 2014
But I believe it is the regions that hold the key to recovery in Greece: That's why I resolved to visit all 13 of them. Thessaly is number 11.
These visits have confirmed my faith in the Greek regions' potential. That's why I am pleased the Partnership Agreement for Greece for 2014-2020 forsees a programme for every one of the 13.
Thessaly will benefit from its own Operational Programme too: this is worth more than 391 million EUR; Thessaly will also benefit from additional funds under the national operational programmes and from the Rural Development Fund.
I very much appreciate the efforts of the Governor Agorastos who I have met this morning and with whom I had a constructive and detailed conversation about how to best invest this money.
There is in Thessaly no risk of losing unspent money for 2007-13.
I also offer congratulations for tackling landfills: there are no illegal landfills operating in this region.
Now: Need to finish off all projects and especially key priority projects so essential for Greece s recovery – in Thessaly there are 7, five still need to be completed by 2015.
These include: the regional road Larissa-Karditsa; Larissa-Trikala road; rehabilitation of parts of the Pineios River for pedestrians and cyclists (improving quality of life); anti flood work in Xirias.
In particular the submarine park in Sporades Islands looks like an Innovative project (11 underwater archaeological sites, 9 diving parks) The operational plan was recently received and I am looking forward to its implementation in 2015. It is a potential showcase.
Thessaly's Operational Programme was received ahead of time, July 17 and all Greek operational programmes are now in.
In the future the investments in Greece should be better targeted at two key areas:
If we are able to save only one percent of energy we could save 2.8 % of gas imports into Europe, reducing our dependency on external energy supply.
Europe has to look for solutions to reduce its dependency on countries outside Europe, this is also about our political independence as EU.
We have around 27 million unemployed, we have 23 million existing SMEs.
If each of the existing SMEs would employ one person, the problem could be solved. It is a naive calculation but it gives u a sense of opportunity.
How to merge public and private funds to give better access to finance for SMEs is something we have talked about today with the Governor.
We have changed our regulations to widen scope for how EU structural funds can be used here. But we are still lagging behind.
There are still difficulties for SMEs to access funds and we need to explore this situation, and concentrate on finding solutions.
I am really impressed by the level of scientific knowledge and cutting edge technologies that I have encountered. We need to overcome reluctance of business/research to work together. This is about mutual sharing of experience and capacity for lasting jobs, not just in Greece and Thessaly but across Europe.
Over the coming weeks/months we will assess and fine tune them: the aim will be for focus in investments, expected results should be spelt out. Better defined priorities should be reflected in a smart specialisation strategy - this is about building on the region’s strengths for the benefit of citizens above all.