By José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission
Thank you very much.
I really want to thank my good friend Antonis Samaras for the invitation. I really appreciate our friendship and the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to Europe. This is so crucial during these difficult times.
And I know that this aspiration and this determination are shared by the two other respective leaders of the coalition government Mr Venizelos and Mr Kouvelis and I want to thank them also for their strong pro-European commitment.
Today I want to send a clear message to the people of this great country, of Greece. I know that many people feel without hope. Many are making extremely difficult sacrifices. And many people ask why they should do more.
I understand those concerns. And I agree that some of the efforts seem unfair. But I ask people to recognise the other alternatives which will be much more difficult for Greece and will affect even more the most vulnerable in the Greek society. So this is why it is the right approach to ask Greece to reform, to increase its competitiveness to have a viable future, irrespective of the crisis. You, in Greece, with our support, need to rebuild your country, your structures, your administration, your economy to increase the competitiveness of Greece. And the best hope of a return to growth and job creation is inside the euro area. Staying in the euro is the best chance to avoid worse hardship and difficulties to the Greek people, namely for those in a more vulnerable position
The Prime Minister has assured me that the coalition government will respect the commitments under the second programme and will speed up the key structural reforms that are needed, including the privatisation process and of course, also the reforms in the public administration, for instance, the reform against the tax evasion.
The key word here is: deliver. Deliver, deliver, deliver. The main issue is implementation to deliver results. To maintain the trust of European and international partners, the delays must end. Words are not enough. Actions are much more important. Following my meeting with Prime Minister Samaras, I am reassured that this delivery will happen.
In return I have been unequivocal that the European Commission will stand by Greece. I am here as a friend of Greece. I have repeatedly stated that Greece can make it, together Greece and Europe will make it. Greece is part of the European family and the euro area and we intend to keep it that way. All the heads of state and government of the euro area have stated in the clearest possible terms that Greece should stay in the euro as long as the commitments made are honoured. And there has been solidarity towards Greece.
The European Union and the wider international community have shown unprecedented solidarity with the people of Greece. We need a new consensus on reform and development so that Greece can grow again for the benefit of its citizens.
The Commission’s Task Force for Greece that was established at my initiative, is working to reform the public sector, cut red tape, improve the business environment and assist the Greek authorities in the mobilisation of European structural funds. I can confirm that 181 priority projects will be financed through €12 billion in structural funds for growth and jobs.
And of course in all the other policies there are also ways of supporting Greece. For instance we are now discussing the future Multiannual Financial Framework, the budget for the next seven years, and certainly the European Commission will support. And indeed we are proposing a more integrated policy in Europe when it comes to migration issues so that we can have as much as possible a coherent response to the problems of illegal migration in many of our countries and this of course also applies to Greece.
So my message is: the Greek people do not stand alone. There is hope. And we will be there to help you. I come out of this meeting with a renewed sense of confidence that the coalition government is committed to the reform process and that this can be done.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To conclude, let me say a few words on the euro area more generally. We have taken important, fundamental decisions over the last couple of months to safeguard the stability of the euro area, and indeed we are now in the phase of implementation. A number of governments have embarked on a path of reform and fiscal consolidation that was unthinkable only very recently, and they have taken important decisions and I encourage them to keep this determination. These reforms are now being implemented and this effort must continue with credibility, with consistency, with coherence over time. As we said there will not be magic solutions. We need sustained efforts and determination.
At the same time, the existing financial backstops are being used as necessary. Most recently, the financial assistance to the recapitalisation of Spanish banks has been agreed and is ready for implementation.
At European level, the Commission is working intensively towards the creation of a banking union. In early September we will make a legislative proposal for a single supervisory mechanism. This will rely on the ECB as regards the euro area. We will propose to assign to the ECB supervisory tasks in full separation from its independent monetary policy responsibilities.
Giving to the ECB the ultimate responsibility for supervision of banks in the euro area will decisively contribute to increase confidence between the banks and in this way increase the financial stability in the euro area.
The euro area governments and the European institutions, including naturally the European Commission and the ECB, will do whatever is necessary to secure the financial stability of the euro area.
And this I my final word to you: I think all of us in the Euro area and in the European Union should join hands and work together in Greece and in the other countries for the future of our common currency, for the future of our European project. Sometimes I fear that some people have not yet understood that we are all in the same boat. We are really all in the same boat in Europe. That is why together Greeks and all the other Europeans should show the same resolve for the very important commitments that have been taken.
I thank you for your attention.