ΓΡΑΦΕΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ ΠΡΩΘΥΠΟΥΡΓΟΥ
Νέα Υόρκη, 3 Οκτωβρίου 2013
I am so moved and I am so honored to be among you tonight. The energy I have seen in this room tonight I hope with your help will become contagious. Spread as a catalyst the rebirth of the new Greece, we are all tonight dedicated to creating. I cannot thank enough all of you for being here, each one of you and especially gestures like the one of Andreas, incredible gestures we are so appreciated. Andreas, thank you on behalf of the Greek youth. I want to thank everyone, I want to thank Andrew, George, everyone of you for being decided to help our country.
Among you I can recognize so many who have repeatedly in the past and sincerely shown a great interest for Greece, since the first moment we came to government, last year. This visit, concluded today, was a very important step for us, at a very delicate moment for my country.
If I should describe the main “theme” of this trip with one word, that world would be stability.
Stability in two different ways:
–Firstly, Greece finds itself already in a path of stability, both economic and political.
–Secondly, a new stable Greece is recognized and appreciated by more and more, as a stability factor in our area, the Eastern Mediterranean. So stabilizing Greece has had positive repercussions beyond the Greek borders. And indeed it is a striking difference compared to just a year ago!
Last year, Greece was considered a “trouble spot” for Europe, in a relatively stable environment.
Now, the picture has been completely reversed:
Greece is in the process of becoming a “beacon of stability” in the middle of a region which, as you read in the papers every day, is unfortunately destabilizing.
This is a strong impression, which already exists in the minds of many people I talked with, this last week.
This is a new reality which I elaborated with facts, with arguments, with long discussions about the challenges Greece faces and the promising perspectives of the new Greece we are building.
We have met with distinguished members of the business community, fund managers, investors, multinational top executives. I also had the pleasure, the opportunity of meeting with Congress leaders. At a very difficult conjecture in the Capitol Hill, with both party leaders trying hard to stop the government from closing down, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Senate leadership and House leaders. And, of course, we had a very productive meeting with Vice President Baiden, two months after I had the pleasure of meeting with President Obama.
Finally, I took great satisfaction in meeting with the Greek Diaspora in New York, with representatives of the American Jewish Community and with the Hellenic and Israeli Caucus on the Capitol Hill.
What I received from all those meetings was a very deep sense of respect for a country which sacrificed so much in order to safeguard its European identity and its prospects for a new, growth oriented, economic comeback. In many cases, I felt genuine love for Greece, a vote of confidence for our work and – most importantly – the question I heard so many times: What can we do to help?
I explained to everybody where Greece stands now, what obstacles we have already surpassed, what challenges are still lying ahead of us, what the long-term prospects are for the Greek people.
This is a small fact-sheet of the Greek accomplishments so far:
Within three years we eliminated an enormous deficit in the order of 15% of our GDP, a record fiscal adjustment indeed! In the mean time, our overall debt increased only marginally, due to the biggest “haircut” taken ever in any country, plus an additional and also an unprecedented debt buyback.
Obviously, all this came at a very high price: Greece lost about 25% of its pre-crisis GDP, the Greeks lost about 40% of their standard of living in just 4 years, while unemployment skyrocketed: 27% for the general population and more indeed than 60% for the youth!
However, we now have some good news: Everybody is predicting that recovery is going to start any time and that 2014 will be a “positive growth” year, after six consecutive years of a very deep recession. Updated official reviews show that the 2013 recession will be smaller than earlier predicted. Official data show, that for the first time in four years, unemployment is marginally decreasing from the first to the second quarter of 2013.
Most importantly, according to all evaluations, Greece is going to have, by the end of this year, a primary surplus, for the first time in more than 10 years and ahead of its current fiscal targets.
And believe me both for the European Commission, the IMF, the troika, everyone, the primary surplus is the major criteria through which they decide and will have to tell us and tell the world that we are delivering. That we have implemented, that we have done our job in the best possible manner.
The markets have also given us their vote of confidence this week. Our 10 year bond yield is around 9% now, compared to 10,4% a few weeks ago and more than 27% about a year ago!
What makes it even more optimistic, according to official surveys of the IMF, the European Commission and the OECD, Greece, as it stands now, has the largest cyclically corrected primary surplus (of about 6% or more) and the largest structural surplus, compared to an average structural deficit for the eurozone as a whole! In other words, if Greece were to reach today its current potential, it could cover all its expenses, including interest payments, and still have some surplus for annual debt reduction.
On top of that, our trade balance deficit which had climbed to 15% of GDP by 2009, is now down to zero, for the first time in decades! This indicator alone shows that we have not only undergone an enormous fiscal correction. We have also achieved a major structural rebalancing in the Greek economy. And this is fully verified by the OECD “Going for Growth” survey, according to which Greece already ranks in the first position among all OECD countries in implementing growth enhancing reforms. Not only fiscal consolidations but structural changes as well.
Obviously, we still have a long way to go. Because we started from a very negative territory.
But we are on the right track and moving ahead fast.
In short, both quantitatively and qualitatively, both in terms of fiscal consolidation and in terms of structural reforms, we have “turned the ship around” and we reversed the trend. We have stopped falling, we have already started ascending. We have stabilized our economy and we have started going up.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Of paramount importance is that my county has also established internal political stability. During such unparalleled crisis, populism has been fueled by the agony, by the pain, by the despair and by the deprivation of a large part of our society. Even extremism was fueled, unfortunately, with the creation of an abominable neo-Nazi party! It is a real shame when such groups surface in any part of the world. Even more so, it is a shame to watch a neo-Nazi group gaining ground in a country, which only half a century ago, lost 10% of its population during the Nazi Occupation. It is a shame, but it is also a warning…
As I am sure you have all heard by now, we have crushed the neo-Nazis, whose leading members are brought to Justice, whose leader together with his number two in command are already in jail and whose influence is falling precipitously as we speak.
And I am confident that populism will not gain further ground. It will lose popular support…
And let my underline that everything we did was according, abiding to democratic standards and by the rule of law. Because a real victory makes sense when you defeat your adversary without becoming like him.
Fighting populism, you’ve got to make sure you do not become a populist yourself.
Fighting extremism, you’ve got to make sure you do not go yourself to the extremes.
Democracy can defeat its enemies. Provided we believe in democratic institutions and in the rule of law. And this is exactly what a society needs, understands and appreciates.
There are far less incidents of social turmoil in Greece today compared to one or two years ago. Why? I believe for two reasons:
–Firstly, because the Greek society has realized that we’ve got to move ahead, that we cannot and should not live on borrowing on new loans. We can no longer be a consumption society. Greeks deserve better than that. We need to produce.
–Secondly, because the Greek people have already seen the signs of hope on the horizon. And the more hopeful they become, the more stable the country gets.
Lastly, stabilizing Greece both economically and politically, extends beyond our borders. Our region, the Eastern Mediterranean, is in turmoil. Developments in the Arab world, Syria and other trouble spots generate instability. Greece can now, more than ever, become a stabilizing factor! Not Greece alone, of course. There are other countries in our neighborhood which have the same concerns with us, the same stake in stabilizing the region, and share with us the same values of Freedom, Democracy, Security, Growth and Prosperity.
For instance, on Monday, I will be flying to Israel to push for a long term strategic partnership among Greece, Israel and Cyprus. Besides common concerns and common values, the three countries we have something more in common: Huge energy resources in the sea area of the Eastern Mediterranean, among our shores. And this represents an immense potential for growth and security. According to prominent geological surveys, the verified reserves there are so large in that area, when untapped and fully developed, could cover about half of the overall European demand in natural gas for the next thirty years! So, there is a very large scope for cooperation among us to develop and transport those resources. And, of course, this is a huge potential which can generate growth and prosperity for everyone. After all growth, prosperity and stability are things we can only enjoy in the long run through cooperation, through sharing.
So this is where we now stand. Last year, Greece seemed “doomed” in the minds of many.
This time around everybody agrees that “Greece is back”!
Firmly back as an integral part of Europe and the eurozone. Back to the road at stability. Back to the road of recovery and growth. Certainly back as a key factor of stability in its region. And the Eastern Mediterranean certainly needs an alliance for stability and growth.
Greece, along with other countries of our neighborhood, can certainly play a key role to such an alliance. Which can only work however if it is “all inclusive”. In other words, everyone is welcomed to contribute in re-establishing stability and security in our region. No exceptions.
All these spectacular changes in the last 15 months have been a pleasant surprise for many. But they are not a “miracle”. I want to thank, as I do every day, the Greek people for their bravery, their maturity and their perseverance at times of unprecedented hardships.
I want to thank our partners in the EU; I also want to thank our allies for this support.
Last but not least, I want to thank our friends all over the world. Especially distinguished friends like you, like the “Hellenic Initiative”, all of you being present here tonight…
”Hellenic Initiative” is about encouraging investment in Greece, about expressing solidarity to the Greek people. And I want to thank again each one of you!
Such friends, in times of need, to me, are a real blessing. Such precious friends stood by our side, believed in us, when very few others did. They stood on our side, when many others were keeping a distance. And I have to remember President Clinton, I’ve just told him tonight, he was the first dignitary who visited Athens last July. And I remember what we discussed. And I will never forget his words of confidence for our country, his solidarity to Greece, our people and our efforts. You know, since ancient times, Greeks live and adore, they live by symbolism and the symbolic gesture of Clinton coming to Athens and showing his confidence, when we were just starting a year ago and his solidarity and something I will never forget and I want to thank the President.
Thank you all.
Greece is back!
And, of course, I want to give special thanks to the Greek Diaspora. The ecumenical Hellenism which is the soul of our nation! Our brothers and sisters who stretch all over the world, who are always there when Greece needs them; who are always so close to us, despite living so far away from us.
Υοu are the heartbeat of Hellenism. You are the real power of Hellenism.
And I want to thank you for your respect, for your love and for your knowledge that Greece cannot be defined only by five years. Greece must be defined by twenty five hundred years. So, you are our heart and our heart beats together with the Diaspora. Εδώ χτυπάει η καρδιά του Ελληνισμού. Και εσείς είστε η μεγαλύτερη δύναμη του Ελληνισμού!
Indeed, Greece is back! Μαζί!
Thank you very much.