The head of the European Commission said Wednesday there was «no way» of changing the terms of a 130-billion-euro bailout agreed with Greece, as Athens prepares to return to the polls.
“There is no way of changing the commitments taken by Greece and also by the other 16 euro area member states,» said Jose Manuel Barroso as he outlined a new push for growth across the eurozone in the wake of telephone talks with new French President Francois Hollande.
As official news in Athens pegged June 17 as the date for a repeat election, 10 days after voters gave a majority to anti-austerity parties, Barroso said it was «important not only for the credibility of Greece but also for the credibility of the euro area that agreements are stuck to.”
He added: «It is possible to work with the Greek authorities on measures to enhance growth.
“But frankly, it will not improve the situation of Greece or the euro area in general if the message is that we do not stick to our commitments.”
Barroso underlined: «We will of course fully respect the decision taken by the Greek people.
“But the Greek people should be aware that there are another 16 democracies in the euro area — and that the democratic decisions taken by the euro area should also be taken into account.
“We want Greece to remain part of the family, of the EU and the eurozone.
“But the ultimate resolve to stay in the euro area must come from Greece itself,» Barroso said.
Barroso joins European Union leaders for an informal summit in Brussels on Wednesday, after a G8 summit in the United States also involving Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and non-euro British counterpart David Cameron.
He said Wednesday’s talks gave an opportunity to widen the EU’s growth agenda ahead of formal decisions at a June 28-29 summit, calling for «targeted investment» alongside «sound public finances and deep structural investment.”
He particularly urged leaders to agree on a 10-billion-euro capital injection into the European Investment Bank, aimed at boosting lending to small and medium-sized enterprises and therefore employment.
A day after Austria and Luxembourg blocked plans to target unpaid tax hidden in accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere, Barroso said the Commission also needs a «mandate» to proceed in efforts worth «billions and billions» all of which can be used to «kickstart growth.”
He said he had a «long conversation» with Hollande which would see them work together on these aims, beginning before the G8 discussions on Friday and Saturday.
Barroso said the EU needs decisions quickly on these and other ideas including an improved EU budget and re-directing unallocated EU funds — rather than returning them to contributing states — in order to boost confidence.
However, he reiterated that even with the new triple-pronged approach he advocated — investment as well as austerity and reforms — Greece could not re-negotiate the terms agreed with the EU and the International Monetary Fund in March.