Politics: PM Papandreou meets with Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker

“The euro is not at risk and will survive; and Greece will survive thanks to the euro,” visiting Eurogroup chairman and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker stressed on Tuesday after talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou at Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters, in Athens.

Present in the meeting were Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.

Juncker stated that the repayment period for the Greek debt must be extended and expressed Europe’s full support to the efforts made by Greece, saying characteristically, that “everybody in Europe admires Greece except from a few idiots”.

As regards the repayment of the Greek debt, Juncker said that the EU consensus has been ensured and expressed support to the programme implemented by the Greek government, adding that more measures will be adopted if the goals set are not fully met.

On the Competitiveness Pact discussion underway in Europe and due to culminate with the March 25 Summit meeting, Juncker said that a proposal has been made by Germany and France. Greece and Luxembourg are in favour of competitiveness but they were not satisfied with the latest Council meeting, he said, adding that the proposals made by Germany and France are being studied.

On his part, Prime Minister Papandreou referred to the issues discussed with the Eurogroup chairman while, as regards the European debt crisis, he said that Europe must make the necessary decisions soon.

He added that Greece wants a comprehensive solution to the issue and referring to the programme implemented by the government, he stressed that “we have received a mandate from the Greek people to proceed with major reforms and that’s what we do”.

“We were forced by the debt and the deficits to adopt extraordinary measures to salvage the country,” the premier said, adding that now the goal set is to change the country. “We proceed with a series of changes that are unrelated with the extraordinary measures and the message sent is that Greece is on the right track and the Greek people should be optimistic about the future,” he stressed.

The Greek prime minister thanked Juncker for the support he provided both as Luxembourg prime minister and the head of the Eurogroup for Greece's efforts to exit from the crisis.

"Greece has proved that it can assume its responsibilities and its efforts are based on the toils and sacrifices of the Greek people," Papandreou stressed.

The prime minister further said that the European debt crisis can also be handled as an opportunity for the coordination of economic governance.

Focusing on the issue of illegal immigration, Papandreou said that Luxembourg supports control efforts being made by Greece and added that during Tuesday's meeting the joint will of Greece and Luxembourg for further strengthening their relations both bilateral and in the framework of the EU was confirmed.

The prime minister expressed support for growth and competitiveness, saying that the latter has also to do with investments in the qualitative upgrading of infrastructures, while as regards the competitiveness accord he said "we have not seen it."

Juncker said he was interested how the Greek premier was considering developments in the broader region noting that "Greece is the European Union's expert on Balkan and Middle East issues."

ND leader Samaras meets Juncker

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras met on Tuesday with visiting Eurogroup chairman and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker with talks focusing on the world economic crisis and its repercussions in Greece.

Samaras said after the meeting that he discussed with Juncker recent developments in Europe, adding that what is important is the solutions being proposed today. He said that he agreed with the Eurogroup chairman on the need for issuing a Eurobond, extending the repayment period of the Greek debt accompanied by a decrease in the interest rate as well as the need for growth.

FinMin holds talks with Eurogroup president

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou held a meeting on Tuesday with visiting Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker. No statements were made afterwards, but according to reports the meeting focused on issues that will preoccupy the next Eurogroup and Ecofin councils, such as the issue of the resources of the European Monetary Stability Fund, the widening of its functioning and the Franco-German "Competitiveness Accord."

Finance ministry sources also revealed that Juncker was very supportive in all issues, while realising that decisions must be taken as soon as possible regarding the extension of the debt, the size of the support mechanism and flexibility for handling the debt crisis in the eurozone.

An initial discussion will be held at the Eurogroup and Ecofin councils on February 14, while final decisions will be taken in the March councils that will be ratified by the summit.

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