“If I wore a hat, I would take it off in honour of Greece’s success,” European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday, addressing the Greek parliament.
Katainen expressed the Commission’s satisfaction regarding Greek investments under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), also called the “Juncker Plan”.
“Greece ranks first as concerns the use of funding backed from the EFSI”, he said, and explained that over 22,000 small and medium-sized businesses have benefited from the funding. “There is a lot of potential for this country for even more sustainable businesses”, Katainen stated. However, he added, Greece could improve on the areas of non-performing loans, education and restoring trust in the bank system.
Furthermore, Katainen stressed the fact that 25 pct of the Greek population has university degrees, which, according to him, is an advantage that could be put to better use. Many Greeks are innovators and this is clearly a sign that this human potential could be supported through the Juncker Plan, he noted.
He went on to talk about the challenge presented by certain European leaders aspiring to stray away from the liberal democratic system, towards a more totalitarian system of government. “This is not something we can accept”, the EU vice president said, “because Europe has always relied on the principle of respecting the value of the individual,” adding that what is needed in Europe at the moment is strong voices that can stand up to these tendencies.
Commenting further on the phenomena of nationalism, populism and euroscepticism that have been lately manifesting themselves in Europe, Katainen stated that the danger lies in confusing patriotism with nationalism.
“The difference is that patriots love their countries. I am a patriot, I love my country. A nationalist hates.”