Commissioner says this is not the time for easing debt

During a two-day visit to Athens, the European Union’s Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier called on Greeks – mainly the country’s government – to make sure they do not reduce their efforts for fiscal adjustment and reforms, adding that a debt haircut is not the issue at present.

In response to a question at a press conference on Thursday about lightening the Greek debt, the French official said it was not a timely question, adding that “the priority today is to achieve the streamlining and adjustment and for the 2014 program to be successful. It is therefore important that you do not relax your efforts.”

However, he did note the progress Greece has achieved and referred specifically to the primary surplus recorded as well as the promotion of reforms, while also citing the stabilization of the credit sector.

“I am deeply confident that Greece is in the right direction,” Barnier stated.

He went on to comment on Greece’s political life: “The worry, the anxiety, the anger of Greek citizens, who are up against tremendous difficulties, are being exploited by extremist, populist political parties,” he noted.

Referring to the major issues that the Greek presidency of the EU will have to tackle, the commissioner placed particular emphasis on the banking union, negotiations for which are in full swing.

He added that he will be flying to Berlin on Friday to discuss this issue with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. “I am open to compromises as long as an applicable solution is found,” he said.

Barnier reiterated that deposits of up to 100,000 euros are guaranteed and expressed firm support for the creation of a bank resolution fund so that in case a European lender goes bankrupt its depositors will not get hurt.

He also emphasized that all EU citizens should be able to open a basic bank account, noting that 9 million citizens have been refused this option by banks.

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