Pierre Moscovici says that the end of Greece’s three year European Stability Mechanism (ESM) support programme marks an “important and historic moment for all of us.”
Speaking on Monday, the EU commissioner said the occasion brings to an end “eight very difficult and often painful years” for Greece.
He added, “But now Greece can turn a page in a crisis that’s lasted for too long.”
Moscovici, the EU commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, was addressing reporters in Brussels on what he called the “successful conclusion of the programme.”
He warned, however, that Greece will remain under “close scrutiny” in the years to come.
He said, “The debate is still ongoing but this marks the end of the era of the programme and the start of a new chapter for the Greek economy and its relations with other eurozone countries. I also hope the reform process will mark an improvement for the Greek people.”
The official said the successful conclusion of the programme was “a testament to the efforts of the Greek people, the country's commitment to reform, and the solidarity of its European partners.”
“The extensive reforms Greece has carried out have laid the ground for a sustainable recovery: this must be nurtured and maintained to enable the Greek people to reap the benefits of their efforts and sacrifices. Europe will continue to stand by Greece’s side."
While an important landmark, he told reporters that “today is not the end of the road” and that “sustained efforts” were still needed to ensure that the reforms which had been brought in will be “lasting.”
“The debate is still ongoing but this marks the end of the era of the programme and the start of a new chapter for the Greek economy and its relations with other eurozone countries. I also hope the reform process will mark an improvement for the Greek people”
He went on, “We must take note of the considerable efforts Greece has made. It has done more than any other eurozone state to modernise its administration and economy.” Some 450 reforms have been introduced since 2015, he recalled.
“This has borne fruit and the Greek deficit, which was running at 15 per cent of GDP, has been turned to a surplus.”
He said the country’s financial sector was now more robust and that the country’s tax system had been radically restructured to combat tax fraud and evasion.
Moscovici also said that the business environment in the country had been improved making Greece more competitive.
Above all, though, he said it could be argued that it was the reforms to the health and pension systems which had contributed most to the country’s economic revival.
He said, “This process has been long and painful for Greece and major sacrifices have been made by its citizens. But today the economic indicators are pointing in the right direction.”
Though plagued by high unemployment, he said, joblessness had fallen below 20 per cent for the first time since 2011 and was now about eight per cent lower than at its peak at the height of the crisis.
I am convinced that the reform process was needed to modernise the Greek state. This has been a 10 year crisis and so deep and violent that the debt levels remain at 180 per cent. We must not forget this so that lessons can be learned”
He said, “Greece still has a higher public debt level than any other eurozone state but, these reforms mean that Greece will now be treated like any other eurozone country.”
However, he cautioned that because the Greek reform process had been “so much harder and longer than any other” it was now “normal” that the post programme surveillance it will be subjected to will remain close.
“Greece’s recovery is not an event but a process after eight years which have been exceptionally tough for the Greek people,” he said.
He pointed out that some €73bn had gone to bail out Greece but also said that it should not be forgotten that “millions of Greeks have lived through a personal crisis.”
Many, he said, had lost jobs or had had their pensions cut. Other people had been forced to leave the country. He said, “My message now is simple, the EU will continue to stand by you.”
But he also said that getting Greece “to stand on its own feet” had been one of the EU’s long term goals ,not least to ensure that the sacrifices which have been made by the Greek public “will not have been in vain.”
He added, “I am convinced that the reform process was needed to modernise the Greek state. This has been a 10 year crisis and so deep and violent that the debt levels remain at 180 per cent. We must not forget this so that lessons can be learned.”
Speaking separately, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said, "The conclusion of the stability support programme marks an important moment for Greece and Europe. While their European partners have demonstrated their solidarity, the Greek people have responded to every challenge with a characteristic courage and determination.”
“I have always fought for Greece to remain at the heart of Europe. As the Greek people begin a new chapter in their storied history, they will always find in me an ally, a partner and a friend."