Mediterranean region is 2014 priority, Greece and Italy say
18.09.13 @ 09:30
BRUSSELS - Greece and Italy will make the Mediterranean region and alternatives to austerity the main priorities of their EU presidencies in 2014, the two countries' foreign ministers have said.
Next year will be "the year of the Mediterranean," said Evangelos Venizelos and Emma Bonino, who met in Rome on Tuesday (17 September).
"Austerity is a means and not an end. We must promote growth and job creation," noted Bonino.
"We are determined to make sure everyone understands the Mediterranean is not optional, but represents an opportunity for the whole of Europe … the South is not just an incident of geography, but an opportunity." she added.
Greece will assume the EU's six month rotating presidency in January, tasked with brokering agreements between MEPs and national governments on remaining items of legislation ahead of the European elections in May. Italy will take over the reins in July.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, Greek premier Antonis Samaras said that Greece would return to pre-crisis living standards by 2019, adding that his country would soon be out of recession.
"According to most, we will not need a couple of decades, not a couple of generations, but only six years," said Samaras, who was in the EU capital for meetings with the Presidents of the European Commission, Council and European Parliament.
The Greek economy is expected to return to growth in 2014 after six consecutive years of recession. Economic output is around 23 percent lower than it was in 2007.
Samaras also said the Greek government would not make any further spending cuts to cover the anticipated funding gap in its budget plans.
Financial experts estimate that Greece will need an additional €11 billion in 2014 to its €240 billion loan in order to meet its debt repayments.
"Whatever gap emerges for 2014 and 2015 will be covered by structural changes that will have a positive impact on public finances, not through new measures,” said Samaras.
“Greece has the biggest cyclically adjusted and structural deficits in Europe and is close to a primary surplus,” he noted.
For his part, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told Greece to keep faith with its austerity programme.
“I know that the Greek citizens are operating in extremely challenging and difficult circumstances, but I believe now we can say there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.