"We are undertaking a radical change in Greek society and institutions to create a more rational and more competitive development model", regional policy minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told the Regional Development Committee on Tuesday. Mr Chrysochoidis discussed with Regional Development Committee MEPs how best to improve the take-up of EU structural funds, cut bureaucracy and invest in growth and jobs, especially for young people.
Mr Chrysochoidis, who was invited by Regional Development Committee chair Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL), during her visit to Greece in September, called on MEPs to recognise his country's efforts. "We are not asking for a blank cheque but a recognition of the sacrifices of the Greek people", he declared.
Tax reform and structural change
"Tax reform and strengthening competitiveness with radical structural changes" are two priorities of the Greek government's development strategy, which focuses on providing support to small and medium-sized enterprises, said Mr Chrysochoidis, who welcomed a "ninefold increase in the take-up of EU funds over the past 21 months compared with the previous period".
Greece must nonetheless do more to "promote projects and infrastructure destined for citizens and find solutions to unemployment, which is a grave social problem, especially among young people", he continued.
Lack of liquidity
"We have a drastic lack of liquidity," added Mr Chrysochoidis, who saluted the efforts of MEPs rapidly to approve a Commission proposal to increase the EU share of co-funding for projects. Parliament is to put the Regional Development Committee's unanimously positive opinion of 14 November to a plenary vote at its next session in Brussels.
The minister also called on MEPs to back a Commission proposal to create a €1.5 billion guarantee fund to finance the large development and infrastructure projects "that the country needs to promote its growth, overcome major environmental problems and combat unemployment".
Whilst praising Greece's efforts, Regional Development Committee MEPs also urged the minister to reduce bureaucracy as fast as possible in the management of funds and to increase their effectiveness, with the help of the European Commission but also through partnerships with other EU Member States, regions and municipalities.
Helping to tackle Greece's problems
Mr Chrysochoidis' visit followed that of a Regional Development Committee delegation to Greece in July and another by its chair Danuta Hübner in September. Parliament is expected to back the committee's recommendation to raise the EU share of project co-financing for Greece and other countries in macroeconomic difficulty in a plenary vote on 1 December.
In the chair: Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL)