Fiscal discipline urged for Balkan countries

Greece yesterday called on Balkan countries aiming to become part of the EU to learn from the Greek experience and stick to macroeconomic policies that will sustain growth. Addressing a World Economic Forum on the economic prospects in southeast Europe, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis urged countries in the region to resist «calls for a laxer fiscal and monetary policy. «Experience shows that bringing forward the long-delayed recovery is one thing, securing the basis for sustainable long-term growth is another,» he stressed. He said southeast European countries could take a leaf out of the stability and growth pact that binds EU countries and which has been designed to prevent members from running up debt. Christodoulakis also underlined the importance of structural reforms. EU countries were already setting the example with the Lisbon agenda and southeast European countries’ commitment to «courageous structural reforms» would «greatly help them integrate into the European economy,» he said. He said reforms should also seek to strengthen social cohesion to ensure their success. Christodoulakis called for more speed in setting up trans-European networks in transport, energy and telecommunications to bring southeast Europe physically closer to western Europe. «Regulatory and institutional measures to remove barriers to a single market… must be combined with greater connectivity, with greater interconnection of southeast European economies,» he said. He defended Greece’s decision to ask for more EU financial aid for the region, saying it was in the interests of both regions to accelerate the catch-up process. «Only the real prospect of full integration of these countries into EU structures would achieve lasting peace and stability in the region,» he said.