Greece: Exceptional situation, solidarity needed, Almunia

But Greeks to blame, not euro, EU competition chief

02 March, 19:40

    (ANSA) - ISTANBUL, MARCH 2 - Greece's situation is an exception, mainly caused by the Greeks and not by the euro. Greece now will require Europe's and Germany's solidarity for a long time, which of course ask for guarantees. This statement was made by European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, on the sidelines of the Aspen Institute Italy conference in Istanbul. To the question whether Greece is left to itself and kept in a state that makes it possible to rescue Italy and Spain, or that Europe is really supporting the country, Almunia answered to the microphones of RAI that ''Greece has its own kind of problems'' and that its ''situation cannot be compared with no other country in the eurozone,'' not even those ''that are receiving financial aid'' like Ireland and Portugal. ''I believe,'' he continued from the Aspen Bosporus Dialogue, ''that the Greek community is making a huge effort'' and that ''the government of Lucas Papademos, with the support of the two main parties, Pasok and New Democracy,'' is launching ''the reforms and instruments Greece needs. In any case, it will be a long process: reorganising the Greek manufacturing system, modernising the country's public administration,'' recover the tax yield and to make ''products Greece will be able to export to the rest of the eurozone and other countries will take time." During this time, Almunia said, Greece will require ''solidarity: I believe that the agreements that have been reached in the past week show this solidarity." Now ''Greece and its authorities must accept their responsibilities'' and ''the countries that can and must continue to give their support to Greece should not listen to people speaking out'' against this aid, the European Commissioner urged: ''that would be a huge mistake'' because ''if Greece resolves its problems, everyone will benefit. It is in the interest of all Europeans." Almunia, answering another question, denied that Europe is in some way responsible for the Greek situation: ''the Greek government is mainly responsible,'' he said, ''because it has not done what it should have to take advantage of the opportunities created by the euro and to avoid the creation of imbalances in the Greek economy'', which has reached ''an unsustainable debt level." However, ''the Greek society'', according to Almunia, ''is also responsible'' for the current situation: ''the public authorities cannot solve the problems if society and business fail to contribute and collaborate." Answering the question if the fact that Germany keeps asking Greece to make a bigger effort does not ''create embarrassment'' for Europe, Almunia said that ''the sacrifices that are asked of Greece are asked by all members of the eurozone'' and ''in some cases by the entire European Union, not only Germany." He admitted that Germany is still ''the largest and most competitive economy with the most room to express solidarity through financial support. But it is logic,'' he added, ''that Germany ''lays down conditions'' to make sure that ''its solidarity will produce results." Thinking like ''a German MP, a member of the German government or a German taxpayer, it is easy to understand that they want guarantees for their efforts,'' Almunia concluded. (ANSAmed).

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