ΓΡΑΦΕΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ ΠΡΩΘΥΠΟΥΡΓΟΥ
Τετάρτη, 4 Δεκεμβρίου 2013
Jose Manuel Barroso: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
We had just now a very productive meeting with Prime Minister Samaras and also several members of the Greek government.
It was a very open, friendly, constructive meeting.
This visit is proof of our mutual desire to work closely together during the upcoming Greek presidency on our shared goal of strengthening Europe’s recovery.
Of course, we have not only discussed the Greek presidency, but that was the main topic of our talks today.
I assured Prime Minister Samaras and the Greek government of our full support over the next six months for this presidency, and I was glad to hear from him that Greece’s priorities are largely in step with our own.
This is a crucial time for Europe as we seek to finalize key pieces of legislation before the European elections in May.
Our top priority is to firm up the recovery, with a particular focus on combating youth unemployment and improving access to finance for companies. I know the Greek presidency places a similarly strong focus on these areas.
One of the keys to success is making sure that Member States work better together to implement growth-boosting reforms under the European Semester.
Second, the European Union’s new seven-year budget is a trillion-euro investment fund for Europe, and I would urge all member states to make the best use of it when it gets off the ground in January.
Greece is particularly well-placed to benefit from the budget, as it now performs above European Union average when it comes to absorbing structural funds to support growth. In fact, Greece was some time ago one of the last in the list of absorption capacity and is now the fourth. This shows that it is possible to make reforms, that if you work hard we can have results.
And I really want to encourage the government to use these funds to tackle high unemployment, and in particular to implement a youth guarantee. The implementation of these funds can be, in the short term, a very important contribution to growth and to investment because there are still huge problems when it comes to financing the economy and of SMEs.
Third, one of the most important things we can do at European level to strengthen the recovery is to complete the Banking Union, as the Commission has been saying loud and clear. We need to adopt the Single Resolution Mechanism before the European elections and make sure the Single Supervisory Mechanism gets up and running next year.
We must also keep up the momentum on our other ideas to deepen the Economic and Monetary Union, and make sure it continues to have a strong social dimension and that we link to the existing rules in place under the European Semester.
The Commission’s vision is set out in our Blueprint for a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union, which matches increases in responsibility and economic discipline with more solidarity and financial support. Solidarity and responsibility is what Europe needs. Some insist only on solidarity, others insist only on responsibility and discipline. In fact, we need solidarity and responsibility. I hope that the December European Council will strike the same balance in its conclusions.
The Greek presidency will also be instrumental in taking forward proposals to boost trade and the single market, as well as discussions on a future energy and climate change framework to 2030. I am also glad to see the presidency focusing on boosting human mobility and maritime issues. These are priorities which will allow us to set sail together for sustainable growth and job creation.
We have also – in a separate meeting with Prime Minister Samaras, Vice-Prime Minister Venizelos, Minister Stournaras and Vice-President Olli Rehn – touched upon developments in the Greek economy and the financial assistance program.
I really want to tell you that I very much appreciate the determination shown by the Greek citizens and the Greek authorities during this exceptionally difficult time, and I want you to know that the Commission stands by Greece and the efforts of the Greek people to build a better future.
Greece has made impressive progress over the last year, and the hard work is paying off. Greece is set to emerge from recession next year and is on track to reach a primary budget surplus. This progress is also attracting the attention of international investors.
For instance, with the help of the Commission and the backing of the European Union’s budget, the Greek government has finalized negotiations and signed agreements to restart work on four large motorways. Once endorsed by the Greek parliament, we will approve these vital projects, which could create thousands of new jobs and send a positive message to other potential investors that Greece is open for business.
However we know that the economic situation is still fragile and this is not the time to fall victim to reform fatigue. More work is needed on the fiscal package, tax and public administration reform, privatizations and improvements to the business environment and product and service markets. I have encouraged Greece to use all the means at its disposal – including the help of the Task Force that I have created for Greece – to fully implement the program.
Prime Minister Samaras, I really want to thank you for your commitment, not only for the courage and determination that you have shown facing the extraordinary challenges that your country knows, but also your commitment to Europe.
And we have discussed this also today. Sometimes, when we speak about Greece, we express our admiration for the contribution of Greece to our civilization. Europe would not be Europe without Greece. Europe would not be Europe today without the contribution of Greece, from philosophy to mathematics, from theater to literature – the world would not be the same. And this is a debt, a very profound debt that we all have, in our civilization, to Greece.
But it is not only the classic Greece we admire. We admire the resilience, the capacity, the hardworking Greek people. And we believe that now – to use an image that the Prime Minister has used – we are in the last miles of the marathon. This is not the time to relax our efforts: not the one who is running, but also it’s not the time for those who watch just to watch and not to support. We need to succeed in these final miles of the marathon.
As we have seen in the latest indicators coming from the markets, they are expressing now more confidence in Greece than some time ago. Greece was very close to insolvency some time ago, very close to a real and extremely difficult situation, from an economic and social point of view. I know that it was with great sacrifices, but Greece can now look to the future, somehow with more confidence. So let’s work for this.
And I hope and believe that the Greek presidency is going to be a great opportunity to show that Greece is not only able to solve its problems with European solidarity but Greece is also able to give an important contribution to the European project.
With the lessons learned from this crisis, Greece can be also leading the European Union, bringing its special sensitivity to so many problems, from the Balkans to maritime policy, which Greece knows much better than most of our Member States.
I really appreciate the quality of the exchanges, Prime Minister and dear friend. I wish you all the best for this presidency and, above all, all the best for you and for the Greek people in the very important tasks that are ahead of you.
Antonis Samaras: I would like to thank you very much both for your words, but especially for the excellent, very satisfactory meeting we just had together with members of your college of commissioners and with members of the Greek cabinet. This is a crucial moment indeed both for Greece and for Europe. We have to respond to our citizens’ anxiety, we have to give straight answers to legitimate questions about the prospects, about the viability of our Union.
I’m absolutely certain that Greece will have a successful Presidency. A Presidency of opportunities, not a Presidency of crisis. I want to tell you, Mr. President, that the Greek athletes in the Marathon of the Greek Presidency will have no fatigue, but instead they will show resilience because we have a common target and a common goal, which is our European Union becoming more solid, more friendly with citizens and progressively attaining high standards of living through growth.
I’m absolutely sure also that the whole of the European Union will come out of this crisis stronger. I just spoke to the college of commissioners and of course to President Barroso about our targets.
First target is to promote what is obvious: employment and cohesion. Job creation will be a key priority for us, but also a litmus test for the European Union as a whole.
Secondly, deepening the Union and especially the monetary Union, the architectural deficiencies that have already been identified should be addressed. In particular as President Barroso just indicated the Banking Union. We have to move ahead to reach an agreement on the single resolution mechanism.
Thirdly, migration, and especially illegal migration, border management and European Security are very important points. Then force, E.U.C. policies, an all encompassing horizontal framework of E.U. maritime policies, highlighting growth, security but also energy potential, our sea bets for instance. This is an ambitious agenda but it is also a realistic agenda. It is meant to produce tangible results. It is meant to bring European citizens closer to our common European project. It is meant to inspire our citizens and challenge our leadership. We will work very closely with the Commission, as well as with the European Parliament, where I used to be a member of, and where I believe very much in the dialogue of the European Parliament, and of course with the Council.
On the issues of migration and maritime policies, I would like to add one more thing. That we are working very closely with our Italian colleagues, who will succeed us at the second semester of 2014 and since they also abide by this principle, by this need of talking about and solving problems of maritime policy, I think this synergy between two presidencies, one after the other, in other words, the whole year instead of six months, might prove a very positive element in the discussion and the solution of these problems. So we are committed in promoting real solutions, to pressing problems and I think we will also be able to prove the vitality of the European South as a very positive asset to our European integration.
And again I want to thank you very much for everything you have done.
Ακολουθούν ερωτήσεις δημοσιογράφων
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, you presented to the Commission the Greek E.U. Presidency priorities. Are you afraid or concerned that the current impasse in your negotiation with the troika will derail your Presidency? Thank you.
Antonis Samaras: Not at all. We have accomplished our fiscal targets and on some important aspects like the primary surplus, I think we are ahead of targets. We have produced a primary surplus a year earlier than scheduled. So we may not have met every other requirement, we have met for instance maybe with one exception all the milestone requirements, but I think this will be resolved in the next days to come. We are still on the negotiation train. I think this cannot be described as an impasse. On the contrary I’m optimistic that within this year the whole package of this negotiation will be positively addressed and solved.
Question: Mr. President, have you praised Greece’s efforts so far in implementing the program. However the troika review has been going on for three months. So I was wondering in that meeting you had also with Vice President Rehn what was the message conveyed to the Greek side. On that front, is there any apprehension for the Greek argument that the country adopting more fiscal measures would be politically and socially destabilizing. And, Prime Minister, I would like to ask you the last time you were here you said that there is a red line, Greece cannot adopt more austerity measures. Did you convey the same message today or the priority is to complete the review before the Greek Presidency?
José Manuel Barroso: In the meeting you have mentioned we have listened carefully to the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Samaras explained in very concrete terms how is the situation in Greece. We are aware of the situation and the proposal that the European Commission is making, we believe, is for the good of Greece, for the credibility of Greece, for the capacity of Greece to recover the confidence of the international investors.
I’m confident that you will find the solution, concerning the current mission, as it was mentioned, I don’t consider it an impasse. It’s true that sometimes some of these issues are difficult, including from a technical point of view. In the troika we also have to discuss this issue with our partners, including the IMF. But I believe it is possible to find a solution. And it is in the spirit that European Commission is working.
With that spirit I mentioned before, coming back to the image of the Marathon, probably at the end the runner is more tired than at the beginning. It’s more difficult sometimes. Even if it’s a smaller distance, it’s more difficult sometimes at the end, at the beginning or the middle. But I’m really confident that it is possible to overcome the current difficulties. We have seen confidence coming back to Greece. The figures on the primary surplus are really extremely encouraging. I know well, we know very well this is not yet felt by the ordinary citizen. We know well that because there is a time lag between the measures taken and the results, the consequences felt mainly on social aspects. But frankly, there was no other way out from this situation that was created, as you know, some years ago. We believe from that point of view that progress is happening and we encourage our Greek partners and friends to make that effort. I think I’m confident that is going to be the case. Today we have not to make any kind of negotiation. This was not the purpose of the meeting. But we understood very well from the explanation of the Prime Minister how he sees the challenges not only from a financial, economic point of view, but also from a social point of view.
Antonis Samaras: But I think I answered the question basically before, but I want to make sure everybody understands that we have an impressive track record. And I think that even on the structural reforms not simply fiscal reforms. We have spectacular progress on certain areas. May I mention the fact that the OECD Going for Growth Report or the recent Lisbon Council report, that came out yesterday, indicated specifically those spectacular successes that we had as far as structural changes are also concerned. So, I would not be talking about reform fatigue nor am I the type of person who would think of fatigue at any moment of the marathon race. Obviously, at the end, as president Barroso indicated, the marathon gets tougher. It is obvious that the rounds are less, but tiredness is there. But, we have to make sure that we don’t go into a reform fatigue, because that would be unnecessary and that will not help at all Greece’s image and Greece’s Economy to grow.
Those structural changes allow me to say and I think this is very important, should have taken place in Greece whether there was a troika, whether there was a crisis or whether there was no troika and no crisis. These are reforms I had to take, that we had to take so as to navigate in this difficult world of extreme competitiveness. We were talking before about the difference of energy prices between what Europe has to pay and its businesses and what the Americans are paying. So, if the Americans pay multiple times less than what Europe is paying, they obviously have a comparative advantage. If some country has made structural changes that help its competitiveness and others haven’t, then those who haven’t, have a problem. And so, by solving those problems, I think that we are making a better Greece for the future and for our children and for growth to take place.
So, this is what we have been discussing. We still have a long way to go obviously. But, this is exactly what we intend to do, is to change Greece to the point where will be not fourth, as the President said before, but first. This is our vision. We have to be on the top. And this is what we are trying to do and this is what we have to do in order to satisfy the Greek people who have taken immense, incredible sacrifices in order to get us here.
And once again I would like to thank them for that.
Thank you very much.