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.
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.
Amid deep uncertainty over Greece’s medium-term future in the eurozone, there is no guarantee that the new vote will produce a viable government — Syriza, the main opponent of the EU-IMF deal, is tipped to score the biggest vote.
Meanwhile, news that about 700 million euros ($894 million) had been withdrawn from Greek banks on Monday stoked tensions all round.
Barroso underlined: “We will of course fully respect the decision taken by the Greek people.
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.