Moscovici: Greece’s place in the eurozone is not longer in question

The current review with the troika must be brought to a successful conclusion as soon as possible, so that the troika can leave at the end of the technical two-month extension period, towards the end of February, and “we can move to another phase of our relationship with Greece,” with lighter surveillance, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici said on Tuesday.

This is my personal and political will, Moscovici noted during a press conference, after the completion of his two-day visit to Athens.

“Greece’s place in the eurozone is not longer in question as it was…Let me underline that, for me, there was never any question [whether] Greece should remain in the Eurozone. I fought for that when I was finance minister in France in 2012… It was always my personal conviction that Greece’s place is in the Eurozone, that Greece needs the Euro and the Eurozone needs Greece.”

“Jean-Claude Juncker, now president of the Commission, also fought for this as president of the Eurogroup, we did together, as did the previous Commission, strongly and consistently. You must be reassured that in our current functions, today, we still remain strong allies to Greece,” he underlined.

Greece has made immense progress, he said, returning to growth with one of the highest growth rates in the European Union in 2015, the highest primary surplus in the Euro area after Germany, while it registered the highest rates of increase in employment. The achievements made with the sacrifices of the Greek people and the European solidarity must now be consolidated, he said. “Greece must show continued commitment to both fiscal responsibility and further structural reforms,” he added, stressing that this was a necessity for all countries in the Euro area.

For the next phase, Moscovici said that Greece has wisely requested a precautionary credit line to ensure financial stability from the European Commission and the IMF.
Moscovici refused to answer questions concerning internal political developments, saying “I do not interfere in the internal political affairs,” and that the purpose of his visit was to help speed up the review procedures.

However, he added, while respecting the democratic choices of the peoples of Europe, the Commission was “attached to Greece in the Eurozone, we feel that it’s a matter of integrity for the eurozone and a good way for this country. For this reason we are also attached to reforms in Greece.” He stressed the necessity for confidence between Europe and Member-States’ policies, saying this was particularly true for Greece, “and that is how we will act in the future”.

As for the possibility of implementing an alternative negotiation plan in case there are changes in the internal political scene, the European Commissioner replied that he hates plan B, adding: “Let’s focus on plan A, which is the two-month extension, the conclusion of the review and a new phase.”
Asked why he did not meet with main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, he replied that he is in Greece on a working visit. “I am not here as a supporter as a detractor of anybody, I am neutral. If Mr. Tsipras wants to meet in Brussels, in the coming months, I have no problem.”

Regarding the debt issue, he said: “We have addressed since 2012 the measures that needed to be taken so as to ensure long-run debt sustainability in Greece and this is still what we pursue.” He added, however, that “it is not reasonable to pretend that when you have a huge debt it cannot be reimbursed, it is not responsible. It has a name, and this name is default. We avoided that two years ago and we need to avoid that, whatever happens, in the years to come; that is very clearly our political position and not only political, I think it is rational on the economic level.”