ECONOMY

SEV calls for a new message of optimism

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday appealed to the government to introduce structural changes that will free the latent potential of the economy and secure the maintenance of high growth rates. SEV Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, in Brussels as vice president of the European employers’ federation UNICE for a series of meetings with the incoming new leadership of the European Commission under Jose Barroso, told reporters that after the Olympic Games, Greece needs a new message of optimism that will bolster the economy and create more jobs. He said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s keynote economic policy speech at the opening of the Thessaloniki International Fair tomorrow provides a fine opportunity for the announcement of such a message, which is eagerly awaited by the country’s business community and should be followed by the 2005 budget in a similar spirit. Kyriakopoulos said the message should include measures for reductions in public deficit and debt, based on a comprehensive plan for bolstering entrepreneurship and the competitiveness of Greek business. «The government must say to the Greek people, ‘This is the reality and here is my plan.’ Otherwise, Greece will lose its credibility,» he said. Kyriakopoulos repeated, however, that «reforms mean neither austerity nor harsh measures that frighten people,» even though the people have to be told that the measures will not be «pleasant.» In the planned meetings with the new EU leaders, the UNICE delegation will present the employers’ priorities and views on employment, growth and prosperity in the 2005-2010 period. Kyriakopoulos expressed disagreement with the recent proposal for a more lax EU Growth and Stability Pact, saying that the pact as it stands does offer sufficient room for flexibility. UNICE’s president, Jurgen Strube, said the basic goal of the pact should be the credibility of the monetary system and the growth prospects of the European economy. The UNICE officials said they see as encouraging the new European Commission’s declared intention to set as its top priority the implementation of the so-called Lisbon strategy for the achievement of parity with the US by 2010, and stressed that «the competitiveness and integration of the new member states must be the central target of all European policies.» They also called on the Commission to undertake action with a view to boosting entrepreneurship, employment, the environment and innovation. They expressed opposition to the successive amendments to environmental legislation, which cause «uncertainty and a permanent and costly race to meet the new specifications,» and called for further reforms of the labor market, with more flexible forms of employment, and of social security systems. For the European single market, UNICE wants further market deregulation, the implementation of plans for integrated European networks and the lifting of all obstacles to the provision of services among member states.