– The Greek economy has been still in recovery for years. The country
has got a loan contract with the so called IMF-ECB-EU troika. How can
Greece execute a “cheap” EU-presidency? Don’t you think this
EU-presidency is a weight for the national budget?
The Greek Presidency will be economical but fully functional. This is a substantive, albeit with symbolic undertones, decision. The total amount budgeted for the Presidency needs is 50 million Euros. This is substantially less than what other recent Presidencies have spent where budgets tended to be in the range of 60 and 80 million. The way we manage it is by drawing on our strengths: we have an accumulated know how which stretches back almost three decades in the organizational set up of EU Presidencies. This is going to be our 5th EU Presidency and as a result we have very experienced personnel. Moreover, we make extensive use of donations from the private sector. As a result I am fully confident that not only we will be able to stay within the budgeted parameters but we will be able to even return several millions to the state budget.
– We can see that Greece has to face serious fiscal reforms. I’m
wondering how far can the Greek government go to fulfill the criteria
of IMF-ECB-EU trio? Do you think it is any sense to reduce more from
the salaries, pensions, etc? Is there any new method, like
nationalization, to harmonize the debt? Would You tell me some precise
Greece is in full compliance with the criteria set under the MoU with our lenders. As a result payments are being disbursed regularly and we are near the end of the program .We have achieved the largest fiscal consolidation since WWII bringing down our deficit from 15% to less than 3%, and we have finally reached the moment where we enjoy a primary surplus. In fact in terms of the, cyclically adjusted, surplus we have the largest surplus of all EU countries. This is a testament to the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people and it should not be taken lightly. However, there are diminishing returns on this approach. The tune must change to growth oriented policies. This is not an issue limited to Greece but rather an EU affair. The debt to GDP ratio is simply a ratio. We have reduced the nominator; it is time to increase the denominator. Put it simply the European economy needs to start growing again. This is the reason we have chosen to place a particular emphasis on growth oriented policies in our Presidency. Europe needs to bolster its economy in order to grow and generate jobs.
– The question of immigration is very important for Greece because of
almost every illegal immigrant arrives by foot to the EU from a small
Greek-Turkish coastal boarder line. What do you think how the EU must
handle the situation of immigration? Do you think it is possible to
achieve a common EU-agenda, a common EU-principle in the case?
Greece is indeed a transit country though certainly not the only one for the EU. The reason that this is the case has to do with a set of particular challenges we face. On one hand we have the longest maritime border in Europe with over 1.000 islands. On the other we are placed right next to Turkey which has fairly liberal regime for the entrance of third country citizens. The situation has improved dramatically in the last year or so due to the measures taken by Greece in the land border with Turkey and better surveillance of our sea borders. The management of migratory flows is a highly complex affair involving many parameters. It involves not only law enforcement but also humanitarian, economic and relations with third countries issues. It is unacceptable to have tragedies like the recent one in Lampedusa, in the doorstep of Europe. The only real long term solution to the problem can come through a comprehensive EU approach. This is precisely the reason we have chosen migration as one of our political priorities of the Greek Presidency. There is an urgent need to reexamine the whole of EU policy regarding this issue and involve all potential stakeholders.
– We can see that there’s some contrast between EU-member states about
the enlargement process. What’s the Greek opinion? Does Athens support
Western Balkan countries joining to the EU?
Greece is strongly committed to the integration of Balkan states in the EU structures. For the Western Balkans in particular, it was Greece which opened the accession agenda almost ten years ago during the Thessaloniki summit. This is a position stemming both from geopolitical realities and from our long experience as an EU member. For Greece to be secure and to fully exploit its potential, it needs to be surrounded by countries sharing the same political, economic and legal norms. We also strongly believe that it is best to be part of the most democratic and prosperous club in the world than outside of it. Hence, we consider eventual EU membership to be the best long term scenario for Balkan countries and, indeed, a reaffirmation of their contributions to the great European family. Having said that, integration into the EU structures is a long and difficult process. It depends on the successful completion of very specific and detailed milestones. Once they are completed, I expect all countries of the region to become fully fledged members. We are very glad that we will be able to start accession negotiation with Serbia on the 21st January.
– There are huge internal conflicts in Greece between the far right
and the far left political sides. A rapper died, then two members of
the Golden Dawn also died in a killings. How can the Greek government
handle the situation? I know the Greek cabinet tries to eliminate the
Golden Dawn, but what about the far left groups, illegal parties? Do
You name any other party which will receive the same treatment?
I want to be absolutely clear on this: illegal activities are not tolerated in Greece. We are proud of the fact that in Greece dissenting voices can be heard and that different ideas can be contested in the electoral arena. This is a testament to the stability of our democratic institutions and principles. However, we do not tolerate criminal activities either from the left or right of the political spectrum. Several members of the organization you just mentioned have been arrested, accused of heinous crimes and are awaiting their day in court. As much as I find their ideology repulsive it is not for me to pass judgment on them but rather, for a court of law to do so. The message should be clear to everyone: In Greece ideas can be shared freely, elections contested fairly. However, if you break the law, justice will come after you.