A la veille de mon déplacement en Grèce ce lundi 15 et mardi 16 décembre, j’ai exprimé dans une interview pour le quotidien grec Kathimerini mes convictions sur la nécessité d’une Grèce forte en Europe, et mes réflexions sur les enjeux européens en matière économique.
Ahead of my trip to Greece this Monday and Tuesday, I expressed in an interview for the greek daily newspaper Kathimerini my support for a strong Greece in Europe, and my thoughts about European economy.
La vidéo de cette interview / The video of this interview:
Le texte de mon interview/My written interview:
You are going to be in Athens on Monday at a very important time for the EU agenda and the Greek program. Next week, the EU Council is to decide on the investment pact. This doesn’t really affect the lives of many EU citizens. What changes can they expect?
The results of the last elections were somehow worrying. I can understand that a young woman or man in Greece, where there is 50 percent unemployment, will wonder why they should be pro-European.
Our aim is to restore confidence in EU projects and to do what we need to show by actions and results that our preoccupation is jobs and growth.
I understand those who say that Europe is only about fiscal consolidation, seen as austerity, and wonder what prospects there are. This is what this Commission is about. Our aim is to restore confidence in EU projects and to do what we need to show by actions and results that our preoccupation is jobs and growth, jobs and growth, growth and jobs. Investment here is the key factor. What explains the lack of growth or weak growth in Europe today is the lack or deficit of investment capital. When you look at the figures, investment in the eurozone is 20 percent lower than it was in 2008. It means that compared to our competitors like the US, we are at risk of becoming a kind of second division. We don’t want that, and that is the investment plan, an initiative of 315 billion euros that must be targeted for jobs and activities for the future. It has to be implemented fast and that is why this Commission is working so fast.
There are deflation pressures in Europe and countries with high debt like Greece are not going to be helped by this situation. What is your action plan for that?
First, I wouldn’t say that we are in a deflationary situation. This is not the analysis of the Commission. The Commission sees that we are in a low inflation situation but we expect inflation to go up slightly in the two years to come. Of course we are going to look at it, especially the impact on the evolution of the price of energy. I know that some countries are in negative territory as far as inflation is concerned and that is the result of the consolidation plans that we led in Greece.
This is not the responsibility of the Commission, the main actor is the ECB but as far as I know Mr [Mario] Draghi is very conscious of the problem and feels that monetary policy has to be adjusted to this situation. Maybe in the months to come there will be decisions to be taken and I’m confident that Mr Draghi is a man who is wise.
France and Italy seem to be having a hard time reaching the targets set by the EU for 2015. Will there be any leniency toward France and, if this is the case, what would you tell Greeks who may accuse the Commission of double standards?
When we deal with the Greek situation, we discuss between ourselves, we discuss with the Greek government and we try to find solutions.
When talking about Greece the only problem is not the deficit but also the huge amount of debt and the state of the economy, which needs reforms to become modernized and stronger. As far as France and Italy and other countries are concerned, I have to be very clear that my role here is not to act on behalf of my own country. If I were to do so my credibility would be immediately ruined. So it’s not a personal problem. It’s a problem of the institution, a problem of common rules. Everybody has to apply the rules, there is no small country, big country, no huge power or a country that can be neglected here – the rules have to be applied. But of course the rules have some flexibility in themselves, some room for manuever and discussions. When we deal with the Greek situation, we discuss between ourselves, we discuss with the Greek government and we try to find solutions with problems of another kind than those of France and Italy. We discuss in a concerted but fair way.
This is not to say that I believe dialogue is the best solution because it must be together on the same track. But when there are problems the Commission is ready to take responsibility. So sanctions are never good solution, never, because it proves that you did not convince a country to reform and then that country is stigmatized. Anti- European parties can take advantage of that. But if necessary we won’t hesitate to take sanctions and that is very clear, that is why we have three months for France, Belgium and Italy to discuss. I always prefer consultation to punishment. Everybody needs to be reassured: The rules are there to be applied by everybody.