NEWS

Athens calls for pro-growth policies as 'Club Med' gathers

BY MICHELE KAMBAS

TAGS: Economy, Diplomacy, Politics

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for policies to foster growth as he prepared to host a summit of southern European states on Friday, saying they needed to have a bigger say in the future of Europe.

Tsipras was due to host the leaders of France, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus to discuss the future of the European Union, against the backdrop of faltering growth in the bloc, a deepening migrant crisis and British plans to quit the union.

The group is often referred to as "Club Med", even though Portugal is not on the Mediterranean.

Economic stagnation, the rise of euroskepticism and a strengthening of the far-right were issues which needed to be addressed, Tsipras told the EurActiv news website in an interview.

"In such a debate, Europe's Mediterranean countries can and must raise their voice. The way to have a bigger say is to seek a common approach and common positions," Tsipras said.

He said there was a need to 'give new impetus to growth and productive reconstruction', and denied the meeting was an attempt to drive a wedge within the bloc.

"Its a huge mistake to see growth as a process that creates deficits," he said in response to an observation that a pro-growth agenda would likely deepen public deficits.

The EU announced in July a waiver of fines against Spain and Portugal for failing to bring their budget deficits below the EU's ceiling, underscoring the EU executive's reluctance to impose penalties while economic growth remains slow and anti-EU sentiment is rising.

Finance ministers meeting in Bratislava on Friday warned against letting deficits grow in the two countries.

Similarly, senior German EU insiders on Thursday cautioned southern European states against pushing for the bloc's fiscal rules to be eased, saying a strong and stable union was more essential than ever following the Brexit vote.

German EU lawmaker Markus Ferber, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives' Bavarian sister party, told newspaper Die Welt he was concerned the southern countries could form a "coalition of redistributors" that would threaten Europe's financial stability.

"After Britain's departure, the 'Club Med' will have a blocking minority that can prevent all kinds of laws in Brussels that it does not like," Ferber said.

[Reuters]

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