EU wants Greece to stay in euro area, Barroso says

The European Union will honor its commitments to Greece in an effort to make sure it remains within the euro area, but Athens, too, must meet its obligations to the EU, the head of the European Commission said on Thursday.

”As far as Greece is concerned, I would like to reaffirm very clearly that we want Greece to stay in the euro area. And the European Union will do all it takes to ensure it,” Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said in excerpts from a speech distributed for publication prior to formal delivery at the United Nations.

However, when Barroso delivered his speech before the 193-member body, he stayed largely to his prepared remarks but, in an odd twist, completely left out his comments about Greece.

”It was a last-minute change. The UN delegation wasn’t aware of it,” the EU’s U.N. delegation spokesman told Reuters.

In the excerpts, Barroso made reference to upcoming Greek elections after attempts to form a government failed following an inconclusive vote on May 6.

New elections are set for June 17. The rising leftist leader of the SYRIZA party, 37-year-old Alexis Tsipras, is calling for an end to ”barbaric” austerity policies he said were bankrupting the nation.

”We will honor our commitments toward Greece and we expect the Greek government - current and future - to fulfill jointly agreed conditions for financial assistance,” Barroso said.

Barroso said that while the EU respects the will of the Greek people and their vote, it also must bear in mind the will of the 16 other euro zone nations that have agreed on conditions for giving Greece financial assistance.

Greece’s long-running economic crisis turned into a full political crisis after parties opposed to the terms of a 130-billion-euro ($168 billion) bailout made strong gains in the May 6 vote, leaving the country without a government and raising the chances that it would renege on terms of the deal.

In his remarks, Barroso said the EU has responded robustly to the crisis over the last two years with a twin-track approach of promoting stability and growth.

”We need to stay the course, without being blind to an evolving economic situation,” he said.

Barroso is taking part in the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Thematic Debate on the State of the World Economy and Finance in 2012. It is bringing together high level ministers, mainly from emerging market nations in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. [Reuters] -

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