NEWS

Greece is on target, premier assures Brussels

Arriving in Brussels yesterday for talks with his European Union counterparts, who have contributed to a multibillion-euro rescue plan for Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou declared that his government was progressing slowly but surely with difficult reforms. «We are on the right track and, although the course is a tough one, we are making real progress and pushing through real changes,» Papandreou told reporters upon his arrival at the European Commission’s headquarters. EU heads of state discussed a range of subjects at the summit, including Greece’s progress in pushing through reforms as well as France’s controversial evictions of members of its Roma community from settlements. The matter of Greece’s debt problems was somewhat overshadowed by the Roma evictions, which drew widespread criticism from heads of state. But Greece was also expected to come under some pressure, as certain EU member states, including Germany, are believed to be in favor of the stricter monitoring of the government’s progress in collecting revenue and curbing spending. Papandreou yesterday reassured his EU counterparts that his administration has the situation under control despite a shortfall in revenue collection. «Greece is meeting its commitments,» he said. «It has reduced its spending so that the drop in revenue will not have a negative impact on it meeting its targets,» Papandreou added, referring to the goals set out in an agreement signed in May between his government and its three creditors – Greece’s European Union partners, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which have pledged to lend Greece 110 billion euros over the next three years. Speaking after the talks, Papandreou said that the issue of economic governance within the EU figured high on the meeting’s agenda. «But the matter of deficits is only one aspect of this debate,» Papandreou said. «What is needed is responsible governance, a strategy for growth, a transition to the green economy – and all this under a comprehensive European Union policy,» he said. Addressing reporters late yesterday, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said EU leaders had achieved a broad consensus on creating a task force for economic governance that would «monitor and correct imbalances, the risk of bubbles and divergences in competitiveness.»