EPP’s leader Manfred Weber met with PM Samaras, ministers

The leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) parliamentary group at the European Parliament Manfred Weber met on Tuesday in Athens with the Premier Antonis Samaras and in separate sessions with Development Minister Nikos Dendias, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, discussing several issues surrounding the competitiveness of Greek SMEs and the ways the European Commission can support it.

Early in the day, Weber met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the Maximos mansion, although no statements were offered at the end of their meeting.

The leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) at the European Parliament Manfred Weber met with Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Tuesday, in one of a series of meetings he conducted with Greek politicians during his visit in Athens.

According to Finance ministry officials, Hardouvelis emphasized to Weber his optimism for a positive result at the imminent negotiations in Paris between a Greek coalition government delegation and the troika. He also noted that the Greek government is looking forward to being supported by the EPP in the European Parliament on the issue of Greek economic development.

On this issue, Weber asked from Greece to compile a list of proposals for the European Investment Fund (EIF). According to the same sources, Weber expressed support for the EU but noted at the same time that Europe should change course.

In his meeting on Tuesday with Manfred Weber, the Development Minister Nikos Dendias informed him of the efforts of the coalition government in the direction of subsidizing the interest rates of pre-existing loans to Greek SMEs by 2-3 percentage points, using funds from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

The government is trying to think of ways to support SMEs which honour their loan repayment schedule, but nevertheless are obliged to borrow at interest rates which are higher by 3-4 percentage points compared to their European peers, making them less competititve.

The proposal which Dendias discussed with Weber appears to relate to about 35,000 small and medium enterprises which employ up to 125,000 people, contribute 4 pct of the GDP and 7 pct of Greek exports. The European Commission has not yet approved the Greek request for interest rate subsidies, which is why the Greek side seeks to form an alliance around it, in order to have it re-examined.

Greece is also trying to convince the European Commission to release funds for the support of its regions, some of which are considered to be “developed” according to EU standards, based on data predating the severe economic crisis of Greece.

Weber also met with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis late on Tuesday, who briefed him on reforms in public administration during the current year, and on efforts to reduce bureaucracy. The minister also briefed Weber on the reform agenda for the next two years, the restructuring of ministries’ administrations and other issues.

Weber’s meeting with the secretary of the Political Committee of senior coalition government partner New Democracy (ND) party Andreas Papamimikos focused on European issues, with Weber underlining the improvement of the image of Greece abroad as a result of the sacrifices of the Greek people and the determination of the Greek government.