Greece had outdone every other EU member-state for the sheer number of reforms carried out simultaneously and it is now time for Europe and the Eurogroup to do their part, presenting specific short-term measures for Greece’s debt, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told MEPs on Tuesday. This would be legal provided the work on reforms was completed, he said, noting that “we must not be demanding only with Greece.”
Addressing the European Parliament plenum about Greece’s economic prospects, Moscovici said he had a few “comforting facts” to relay, such as a 0.2 percent growth rate in the last quarter and signs that this trend will continue and grow stronger in 2017. The Commissioner also predicted that a forecast for a 0.5 percent primary surplus in 2016 was “achievable.”
Moscovici said that the first review of Greece’s program was partially concluded in the spring, allowing a political agreement for the disbursement of 8.3 billion euros on May 25. One sub-tranche was disbursed in June while the second will depend on the prompt adoption of a number of prior actions by the end of this week, he said.
He noted that the Eurogroup had expressed its satisfaction that Greece was moving in the right direction “and I do the same on behalf of the European Commission.”
Talking about the future, the Commissioner said this would hinge on a swift conclusion of the second review, within a reasonable time frame. Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the country’s Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos should bear in mind that a reasonable time frame meant November, he added.
According to the Commissioner, the success of the second review was a condition for Greece’s recovery and for creating the confidence needed to attract investors. “It would be fortunate if a positive signal can be given for investments in November,” he said.
The second review includes the 2017 budget, a framework for the business environment, labor issues and the Privatization and Investment Fund that is “key to unlocking the Greek economy,” Moscovici said.
“We can count on the conclusion of the first review very soon but the devil is often in the details,” Moscovici pointed out, adding that there had been limited implementation of the agreements in the past.
“This time we must have positive implementation and, I repeat, the Commission is always on the side of Greece, against Grexit and in favor of finding solutions,” he said. This did not mean that the Commission should be soft with Greece, he warned, adding that the Commission was demanding and expected all the ministries to commit fully to the implementation of the program. “Some ministries are not progressing as they ought,” he added.
In the debate that followed Moscovici’s speech, several MEPs were unconvinced about the success of the European Commission’s policy in Greece and were not especially optimistic about the country’s prospects. Among some MEPs there was strong criticism of Greek delays in implementing the agreements.