“We are returning to Athens with an overall package that exceeds 70 billion euros, an unprecedented sum for our country,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, in a press conference following the marathon European Council meeting in Brussels, where EU leaders reached an agreement on the Recovery Fund and the seven-year EU budget.
“Greece, has regained its credibility on a European level, was invited to participate and actively participated in all the negotiations held over these last four days,” he added, while noting that the final outcome represents a “great leap forward” and an important future legacy for the EU.
The prime minister also noted, in response to an Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) question, that the deal agreed upon in Brussels gave Greece an important additional financial tool with which to finance investments and reforms, which will disburse funds over the next six years.
“We achieved a very significant result both for Europe and for Greece,” the prime minister said, noting that the package will be used to support labor costs and speed up the exit from “the deep recession from coronavirus” that will affect all of Europe, with emphasis on climate change action, the green economy and digital skills, which will play an important role in the plan that Greece will submit to the European Commission in October.
“What happened in these last four days as regards the structure of the funds that we have at our disposal, chiefly the ability to now borrow at a European level, is an important leap into the future, a great legacy for the future of Europe,” Mitsotakis said. If the possibility for Europe to borrow at a central level and provide grants and not loans had been discussed three months ago, he pointed out, it would have been dismissed by most as science fiction.
Analyzing the importance of the overall package of roughly 72 billion euros for Greece, Mitsotakis said the grants “from the additional program which was approved essentially amount to one additional NSRF, something over 19 billion euros — to which will be added around 12.5 billion euros in loans so that we once again arrive at the final amount of 32 billion euros.”
“These sums will finally be disbursed on terms that are more flexible than the existing NSRF,” the prime minister said, adding that “we will be able to finance spending in this framework that has already taken place, since February 2020.”
With respect to the Multiannual Financial Framework, Mitsotakis said that two things were achieved: “First an increase in the funds that Greece will receive from the Cohesion Fund and, at the same time, for our farmers, no change in the funds from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“Therefore, we have the tools, we have the plan, we know what we want to do. I will say it again: we have no intention of frittering money away carelessly. We will work responsibly, prudently, we will soon present a detailed plan for productive reconstruction that will transform the country.
“We do not intend to waste this important European capital that is at our disposal, we will invest it for the benefit of all Greeks. We will support the labour sector, we will support bold green transition policies, digital modernisation, skills. It is a unique opportunity for Greece and Europe to make a big leap forward and we have no intention of letting it go unused,” he said.
Ahead of the submission of an overall plan to the European Commission on October 15, he said the government will finalize the priorities of the new national plan by taking into account the plan drafted by the Pissarides Committee and the proposals of the political parties.
“This discussion is one that concerns the political system as a whole,” PM Mitsotakis said.
Referring to the European leaders’ decision to borrow on a European level to finance the recovery of EU economies from the pandemic, the Greek leader pointed out that Greece had been among the nine countries that had sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel in March to ask for this.
“When we asked for this then, this goal seemed very distant. I think that after a great deal of effort and mutual compromises, today we finally managed to set a very ambitious response in motion. A response that answers the symmetric shock that the pandemic poses for all economies. A response that shows, I think, that Europe hears the roar of coming events,” he said.
Replying to an AMNA question on whether the resources available to Greece after the summit will be sufficient to cover the country’s immediate needs following the pandemic, Mitsotakis repeated that Greece will have very significant funds at its disposal “that now give us the ability to respond to this unprecedented recession that will impact all European economies, including that of Greece, in 2020.”
“I think, however, as I said, that we will also be able to do something more than that. For the next three years, apart from the funds we have at our disposal from the MFF, we will have a very significant additional financing tool. I stress again that this tool will finance investments and reforms. It will disburse funds for the next six years and give us the ability to be able to serve a central plan for transforming the country with greater consistency.
“One could, therefore, say that the coronavirus — through its tragedy — has also given us the stimulus, as Europe, to take the step that up until three months ago seemed inconceivable. From this point of view, I think it is an indication of how Europe works and how European solidarity is translated into action.
“Europe often appears static and then suddenly takes a great leap forward. I think that what happened during these four days as regards the structure of the funds that we have at our disposal, especially the capability to now borrow on a European level, is such an important leap into the future. A great legacy for the future of Europe,” Mitsotakis said.
Replying to other questions, the Greek PM clarified that no country will have the ability to veto and block the disbursement of financing, with no country having a disadvantage or advantage on this level. He noted that the procedure, if activated, would simply add some time to the process.
Regarding the programs that were cut under the plan, he said that Greece fought to protect those that allocated funds on a national level, while those that were cut already had significant funding from the structure of the MAFF. He described the final agreement as a “fair compromise.”
On the terms attached to the financing for Greece, Mitsotakis said that “essentially nothing has changed…The terms are those that had already been outlined by the European Commission. A plan is submitted, approved by the Commission… which must be linked to the Commission’s proposals for the European Semester. In the case that some country has an objection, there is the ‘braking’ procedure where it will come for discussion to the Council but without – I stress this – any country having the ability to veto or block disbursement.”
“Therefore, the terms are the same as those that have been described. You should know, however…that none of expected money without conditions. Not even the NSRF comes without conditions,” Mitsotakis added, while noting that the Recovery Fund procedures were likely to be more flexible than those of the NSRF.
Asked whether there will be an emergency European Council on Turkey in September, Mitsotakis said the issue was raised by himself and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and that there was an agreement that the issue of how the EU will deal with the “Turkey problem” will be discussed in detail at the next European Council. This summit could be an emergency summit in September, he said.
“I speak specifically of a Turkey problem because Turkey is now a problem for Europe as a whole and not just for Greece and Cyprus,” he added.
On the decision to cut funding for the EU’s Just Transition Fund, the prime minister noted that there were alternatives for funding the phasing out of lignite, such as the Recovery and Resilience Fund, “so I do not feel we are at risk in any way of not having sufficient funds to finance (this) process.”