Europe reserved on Greek plan

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou expressed satisfaction yesterday with the acceptance of Greece’s Stability and Growth Program by the council of the European Union’s economy and finance ministers, known as Ecofin, but the Eurogroup president warned the measures may not be enough. Jean-Claude Juncker, who was yesterday re-elected as the head of the Eurogroup (comprising the finance ministers of the eurozone), suggested that the program may be a step in the right direction but is not stringent enough to secure success on its own. He also expressed hope that the Greek economy will soon get back on the right track and regain the markets’ confidence, adding that the streamlining of the country’s economy is not only of concern to Greece but also to the entire eurozone. Papaconstantinou said that Ecofin recognizes the Greek economy’s problems and considers the action taken by Athens in the program it has tabled as positive. He added that the first major test will be in June when the Commission plans to assess the progress of the measures. He went on to repeat that «we are paying for the unreliability of previous years,» referring to the statistical data Greece submitted to European authorities, while stressing that the government is working on an institutional framework to safeguard the data system from intervention. The leadership of the National Statistical Service (NSS) will be elected by Parliament, he added. Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a press conference in Brussels yesterday that the European Commission has identified 14 areas where the NSS needs improvement. He, too, expressed the view that Greece’s program is a step in the right direction. Papaconstantinou stated that next month Ecofin will present a package of recommendations regarding control of the excessive deficit and the three-year program to streamline the economy, as well as how to ensure the reliability of statistical data.

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