Barroso backs Greece, sees immediate progress on growth programs

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has repeated his belief that Greece can recover from the crisis and said that Brussels could help Athens make progress «within weeks» on a number of reforms and programs that could boost growth.

“Some people continue to say that Greece will not make it. I ask why? Why should Greece not be able to do the necessary reforms to its competitiveness? I believe it is possible. The Greek government and the Greek Parliament believe it is possible. The decision on PSI shows that it can be possible,” Barroso told MEPs in Strasbourg, adding that the emphasis must be on implementing the reforms Greece has agreed to as part of its second bailout.

“The priority now is to make the second programme work,” he told European Parliament. “This is our collective task: supporting the Greek authorities and the Greek people. To that end, the Commission is already taking concrete steps.”

The implementation of the reform program will be at the center of discussions between the head of the EU Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach,and ministers this week. Reichenbach arrived in Athens on Monday and is due to meet several members of the Cabinet before delivering the Task Force’s quarterly report.

The size of the Task Force in Greece is to be increased to about 100 and members are due to be stationed permanently at ministries to oversee the reforms Athens has pledged to implement.

Barroso said that the Commission and Greek government would focus on key areas for cooperation, including boosting youth employment, creating a more business-friendly environment, providing liquidity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and improving access to structural funds.

“These are all areas where we can make real progress in weeks not months or years,” he said.

Barroso added that he has already held talks with the European Investment Bank “to examine how our support for Greece can be made more effective.” The EIB is likely to use leverage to double some 650 million euros that will be made available as funding to Greek SMEs through local banks.

The EC president said that in the next few weeks he would be issuing a communication on jobs and growth in Greece with European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

“As I set out in the Roadmap to Stability and Growth, finding a lasting solution to the problems in Greece is an essential prerequisite for stability. Without stability there is no confidence. And without confidence we will not get growth and jobs,” he said. 

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