DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Thursday his country was being targeted as a “weak link” in the euro zone but had no plans to pull out of the currency bloc.
Financial markets are gripped by fears Athens will not be able to service its heavy debt, and LeMonde has reported that the European Union was looking at ways of stepping in to quell those fears.
Below are remarks from EU leaders on Greece on a panel entitled Rethinking the Eurozone, made at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
GREEK PRIME MINISTER GEORGE PAPANDREOU
“We need no bilateral loans, we have never asked for bilateral loans,” he told reporters after a Davos panel. Asked if he was speaking with France of Germany about lending Greece money, he said: “No.”
He declined to comment on LeMonde article that the EU was looking at ways of quelling market nerves over Greece’s deficit problems.
Addressing the panel:
“The problem we have I see as home-made. We Greeks are responsible for putting our house in order. The euro zone will help us in creating the necessary discipline to do so and in giving us the motivation for doing so.
“At same time what we have seen in the last few months is there is an attack on the euro zone from other interests.
“So we’re being targeted as the weak link ... with an ulterior motive or agenda.”
“We had a vote of confidence on Monday when we went out for a loan and were oversubscribed by five times, even if it was expensive.
“The day after, there was an article in the Financial Times that China was trying to buy up some of our bonds ... which didn’t exist, officially or unofficially.
“We have had no such contacts. We denied this of course and that was considered a vote of no confidence in the Greek economy which changed the spreads immediately and put us in a difficult position.
“This shows us that we are in a difficult time. It shows us there’s lot of speculation. It shows us that even rumors can cause a problem.”
“Is the euro zone to blame? I put first of all the blame on us. I don’t want to play politics, but in the previous government there was a lot of mismanagement.
“We developed a lot of corruption at the highest levels and we did not take the structural measures to change our economy, to move our economy, to make it more competitive.
“All these problems have been exacerbated because of the international crisis.
“There is a credibility gap -- that is the first deficit -- and we are moving in the next few days to create an independent statistics bureau with members from the Eurostat on it and a parliamentary bureau that will be following our budget.
“The euro zone for us has, whatever difficulties it may have, been very important for us.
“The euro zone also creates a buffer for some of the problems which will allow us to restructure and move ahead.
“We are determined and we think the euro zone is an asset for our country and for Europe.”
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE TRICHET “We are all under stress still. We all have lessons to be drawn from the crisis.
“Let me remind you that in euro area according to the IMF, the overall public finance deficit will be of the order of 6 percent. The same IMF says in that in the United States it will be in the area of 10 percent.
“We all have very, very tough issues both at the level of the euro area as a whole and in individual countries.
“I would say that the Stability and Growth Pact has worked, even if we are permanently calling for full and rigorous respect of the pact.”
SPANISH PRIME MINISTER JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO
“No one is going to be leaving the euro, I would like to insist. On the contrary, there are going to be more countries in the euro.
“The euro club is a strong club with reciprocal support.”
“We must be one of few countries with economies of a certain size where the banking landscape has not changed at all because the crisis has not brought about bankruptcies.
“(The sector) has proved quite resilient.”
LATVIAN PRESIDENT VALDIS ZATLERS
“Our very clear exit strategy is to join the euro by the year 2014. That means to meet the Maastricht criteria by 2012. We are not taking the free ride to the euro -- that is not our decision. We are really ready to fulfill all the criteria ... because our goal is to really rebuild sustainability and a balanced economy.”
“The (IMF) program is working.
“Of course there’s a temptation to ease the (euro entry) criteria because not many countries meet the criteria. But we are not going for a free ride.
“In Feb the (Latvian) government will make a statement that this is 2014 that we have to join.”
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