EC's Barroso pledges support, seeks reform

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday stressed that Greece would enjoy continued European support, and remain in the eurozone, if it makes good on commitments to international creditors that remain unfulfilled.

At a joint press conference delivered after talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Greece’s reform efforts, Barroso sent a message of solidarity but also prodded authorities to end years of foot-dragging and press ahead with reforms and structural changes.

“My message to Greeks is that they are not alone,” said Barroso, who was on his first visit to Athens in three years. “We will stand by them.” But such support comes at a price. “The key word is deliver, deliver, deliver,” Barroso said. “Words are not enough, actions are more important.”

Samaras, for his part, slammed unidentified European politicians for speculating about a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, saying this was hampering reform efforts.

Barroso struck a similar tone, calling for greater European solidarity, noting that all eurozone members states “must come together to support our currency.” “Some have not realized that we are in the same boat,” he said. He added, “Greece is part of the European family and the euro area and we intend to keep it that way.”

The two men also discussed illegal immigration -- a serious problem for Greece due to its location on the EU’s external border -- with Samaras appealing for a “coordinated European solution” to the problem and Barroso pledging that efforts would be made to find a “comprehensive solution” on the EU level.

Barroso was less forthcoming on the issue of growth measures, confirming that 12 billion euros in EU structural funds remained available for Greece to use for 181 “priority projects” but giving no indication that additional cash will be channeled to Greece to create much-needed jobs and ease the impact of an unprecedented recession. The EU official emphasized the importance of structural changes, privatizations and a tax system overhaul, reforms that Samaras pledged would materialize.


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