DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Following are highlights of Greek ministers’ comments at a meeting with media leaders during the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos on Friday.
Additionally, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Almunia spoke to television media in Davos.
EU MONETARY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JOAQUIN ALMUNIA
Almunia confirmed he had discussed the Greek deficit-cutting plan with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on the sidelines of the WEF on Thursday evening.
“The (Greek) program has very ambitious targets.”
Asked whether they were realistic, he said:
“That depends on political determination. I think the new element we have seen in these days is the full political determination.”
Interview on Reuters Insider television:
On an EU bailout:
“Everybody that has information knows that this is not possible under the euro area requirements. Solidarity is possible, will exist. A bailout is not possible and will not exist.”
On accelerating implementation of the Greek plan:
“Yes indeed we would welcome as much as possible fast implementation of this program. We know that the political will is there.”
On whether the plan will satisfy markets?
“I fully believe that the markets will get real information, not rumors and not things that have been denied, and they will come down. I recognize that the spreads of Greek debt cannot be the same as the German one, but some prices are not realistic at all.”
Interviewed on CNBC:
“They have presented a program to the Eurogroup. We as the European Commission will give recommendations to Greece next week. The Greek government is waiting for these recommendations to accept to implement this list of measures. And I am fully confident that this present nervousness around the Greek economy, the Greek public finances, will gradually disappear once we will give clear recommendations. We will put pressure, and at the same time the Greek authorities will accept these recommendations and will implement (them) in the coming months.”
“When a country of the monetary union, the euro area, has problems, these problems are a common concern for all members of euro area and all members of euro area should cooperate with a country with problems....
“So we are all in same ship, we are all in same challenge, and we are coordinating our actions, we are cooperating with those who have the most serious problems. But at the same time, indeed, we are putting pressure on those who should adopt difficult decisions.”
GREEK PRIME MINISTER GEORGE PAPANDREOU
“Greece is in a situation where we need to take very strong measures and structural changes in our country. I have myself (been) very honest about the problem we have. Recognizing the problem and making very determined efforts. We need to restore confidence... We’re determined to implement the program...
Asked about EU aid, he said: “Talking about theoretical possibilities could end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecy...
“There are rules we need to abide by, which is the discipline in the EU....
“Putting our house in order is about making sure money we have goes to the right place.”
Asked how Greece was going to avoid riots, given the social pressures at home, he said: “Riots we had last year were at the height of scandals in our political life. What we have restored was a sense of legitimacy. There’s great support for us even from the younger generation. Whatever we do must be seen as just. It might be painful but we’re all taking our share of the burden.”
“We’re proposing a body that follows the budget execution. That will solidify the sense of credibility in our statistics... “Politically, in meetings we’ve had with (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy and (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel... I found very positive support for the honesty of what the problem was but also the program.”
“We live in a world of blogs and somebody saying something cuts a spin... We’re not getting away from rumors. As we move ahead and implement the program the real test is how to implement the program. That will overcome rumors. Jittery markets, that will be detrimental...”
“On balance one has to say, is the euro zone good for us or bad for us? It’s good for us. You don’t have all the tools, you have other things that protect us. We have to make difficult internal changes.”
GREEK FINANCE MINISTER GEORGE PAPACONSTANTINOU
“Reducing the deficit is growth enhancing. As the global economy recovers... Greece relies heavily on tourism and shipping, which are picking up. The kind of cuts we’re doing are not cuts in activities that would hamper growth....
“Three months after a landslide victory... we’re polling higher than we were polling then...
“Everybody knows that there’s hedge funds around pushing the market. It’s not particularly helpful for us in pointing at them. Fundamentally we need to reduce the deficit, in quickly and orderly fashion....
“The main thing Ireland was lauded for is decision to reduce nominal wages in the public sector. In our case, we have a very different system from Ireland. To attack the same kind of problem, we’re addressing it in a slightly different way...
“Greece has seen a decline in competitiveness partly due to a much higher rise in costs. We’re working on a price and wage aspect.”
“It will be disastrous to be outside the euro with the problems we have today.”
Asked how Greece would cope with ECB tightening, since so much Greek debt was owed by foreigners, he said: “End of 2010 will be an important milestone; that’s when the ECB will reverse the previous state of affairs. We will have proven by mid 2010... our program.”
Reporting by Natsuko Waki and Paul Taylor
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