Published July 26, 2012
ATHENS, Greece – EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Greece's new coalition government Thursday to "deliver, deliver, deliver" on promises for cost-cutting reforms, as the country's finances came under renewed scrutiny from international debt inspectors.
Greece must carry out the reforms for continued financial support from other eurozone members.
Barroso said after meeting conservative Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras: "The prime minister has assured me that the coalition government will respect commitments ... and will speed up the key structural reforms that are needed, including privatization and of course reforms in the public administration."
But promises, he said, are not enough.
"The key word here is deliver — deliver, deliver, deliver. The main issue is implementation to deliver results," he said. "To maintain the trust of European and international partners, the delays must end."
Meanwhile, the heads of an inspection team from the troika of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank also arrived in the Greek capital to inspect the country's shaky public finances and the future of its rescue loan program.
The inspectors met for more than two hours Thursday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
A senior ministry official said that Athens insists on the need for a more generous deadline to implement the measures. "We always raise the question of an extension, and did so today, too," said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Parties in the month-old Greek government have finalized proposals to slash €11.5 billion ($14.1 billion) in government spending over two years — with much of additional cuts set to come from capping pensions and benefits, and savings from public health agency mergers.
Socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos, a coalition partner, urged Greece's critics in the EU not to let the country fall out of the euro currency union.
"If there are those — and I'm afraid they do exist — who believe Greece should be sacrificed ... to put the wind back in the sails of the eurozone, they are making a very big mistake," Venizelos said. "It would be suicide for the eurozone."
Greeks have been subjected to harsh cuts in pensions and salaries, coupled with repeated tax increases, for more than two and a half years.
Analyst Martin Koehring, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, said Samaras' government faces major political risks as it has promised to renegotiate the bailout terms.
"If it fails to deliver, there will be a rising risk that the government may fail and be replaced by an anti-austerity, left-wing government that could take Greece out of the euro area," he said in an e-mailed commentary.
Koehring said that Greece is already missing more than 200 of its bailout targets.
"That is why Mr Barroso's visit will not just be reassuring to the new government, but will also keep the pressure high on the government to get the (austerity and reform program) back on track," he said.
The troika will return to Athens in September to make a final decision on whether to disburse the latest tranche of bail-out money.