France's Moscovici optimistic on Greece
By Alexia Kefala
There is speculation in Paris that Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici may abandon his post to become a “super commissioner” in Brussels. In an interview with Kathimerini, ahead of a visit to Greece, Moscovici says that, in any case, he is keeping a close eye on developments regarding the Greek economy.
You are about to spend 48 hours in Athens to attend the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs (Ecofin) on April 1 and 2. What is your opinion about the state of Greece at the moment?
The considerable efforts made over the past few years have started to yield fruit. The year 2014 should mark the return to growth: Experts predict 0.6 percent economic growth [for 2014] and 2.9 percent for 2015.
Public finances are improving. I see the return of a positive momentum as well as future prospects that will encourage investment and create employment opportunities. Greece deserves as much. We must consolidate these good results while continuing the effort to reduce unemployment.
Yes, but you recently said that Greece must intensify its efforts.
We must speak the truth. [The country] has made a considerable effort, but it is not yet out of the woods. Europe is on the side of the Greek people in this trial. The reforms proposed in this fourth review are necessary because they contain measures regarding purchasing power. The reform of public administration – for which France provided technical aid – is equally important so that Greeks can create a more effective and less costly public service.
Do you think the country is going to need a third aid package? Is a restructuring in the cards?
There has been considerable improvement in Greece’s borrowing terms and this is a positive development. So far there has been no decision and our aim, both at the Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund, is the same: to meet Greece’s fiscal needs to the extent that the country cannot meet them, offering a lower interest rate and do what needs to be done so that the country can regain its autonomy.
Is there a future for the troika today? If so, what will it look like?
We should have no delusions: Things are not hard because of the troika. They are [hard] because of the crisis whose brutality and intensity are unprecedented.
At the same time we had to deal with the huge deficits in public finances and competitiveness at a time when the eurozone was introducing new instruments to deal with worst-case scenarios. In this context, the international community made every possible effort to make sure that reforms would allow the fulfillment of commitments undertaken by Greece and everyone is aware of the efforts that have been made.
The IMF offered its experience on macroeconomic programs, the Commission provided the know-how on the European economy, the European Central Bank [provided] economic expertise on the eurozone. Being able to complement each other has been very useful, I believe.
There was urgency, but it is important to think long-term. We need a more effective safety net to protect the most vulnerable sections of the population. We must also step up reforms on purchasing power. Finally, there must be more transparency in the way states deal with reforms that are supported by the Eurogroup. This is the framework in which we must tread.
What will be your response should you be nominated for super commissioner in a future Commission?
I will make no comment on ongoing speculation about my candidacy. Jokes aside, my position has been steady for the past two years. We must steadily go after the best possible cooperation and support growth and employment, managing our public finances in the best possible manner.