European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday hailed Greece’s reform efforts and insisted on the need for the country’s EU peers to show solidarity, and not just discipline, as Greek government officials seek to reach an agreement with foreign auditors.
According to sources, the climate was much better than expected during the meeting on Wednesday between a Greek government delegation and members of the European Union’s 28-member College of Commissioners where Barroso and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras delivered a joint press conference.
“Some insist only on solidarity, others insist only on responsibility and discipline. In fact, we need solidarity and responsibility,” Barroso said. Noting that Greece has made “impressive progress” over the last year, he warned that the economic situation in Greece is still fragile. “This is not the time to fall victim to reform fatigue,” he said, adding that more needs to be done “on the fiscal package, tax and public administration reform, privatizations and improvements to the business environment and product and service markets.” Barroso compared Greece to a marathon runner, noting that “this is not the time to relax our efforts.”
Barroso said he and Samaras also discussed Greece’s scheduled assumption of the rotating EU presidency on January 1, with the latter pledging that the Greek presidency would be one of “opportunities, not crises.”
Samaras also took the opportunity to point to the social tensions created by protracted austerity. “Greek people have made immense, incredible sacrifices to get us here,” he said.
Samaras and his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos, who was also at Wednesday’s summit in Brussels, are to meet this morning for further talks on Greece’s efforts to reach an agreement with troika officials who are not due to return to Athens until after next Monday’s scheduled Eurogroup summit.
It emerged, during the course of the summit, that Athens and Brussels have a common aim – the resolution of at least one of the points of contention between Greece and the troika. Unresolved issues include the implementation of the prior actions necessary for Athens to clinch continued rescue funding, chiefly the fate of the state defense firm, EAS, the size of a projected fiscal gap for next year, and the possible lifting of restrictions on home foreclosures.
Comments by Eurogroup leader Jeroen Djisselbloem on Wednesday had a different tone to those of Barroso, as he insisted that talks between Athens and the troika remain difficult and that the next tranche of funding will not be disbursed to Greece until the troika has delivered a positive report.