The President of European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, joined the Committee of the Regions President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso in a debate on the future of Europe at the Summit of Regions and Cities in Athens today. Recognising the sacrifices taken by Greece in recent years, President Barroso delivered a message of hope saying that “We are now in a phase where growth is the centre of all our action. The priority is jobs, jobs and jobs. Nonetheless, we can’t forget that some of our countries were in a desperate situation when they asked the EU for support. The worse phase is now over but we must maintain our commitment against excessive public and private debt, since we cannot have growth without balance”.
President Valcárcel stressed that there was a need to raise awareness about the role of the EU in promoting growth and show the achievements to combat the crisis due to the cooperation among EU, national as well as regional and local level. Commenting on the delicate relation between financial consolidation and investment on growth, he pointed out that: “Each austerity measure has to be adopted on the basis of a careful assessment of the connected impact. In setting of deficit ceiling, right degree of flexibility should be ensured in order to allow us to defend the European social model and to mobilise adequate resources for economic development”. In this perspective, the strengthening of the regional and local dimension of the interventions to deliver growth and jobs in the coming year will be a key success factor.
This challenge for regions and cities was stressed also by Ioannis Sgouros, Governor of the Greek Region of Attica and Head of the Committee of the Regions' Greek delegation, who referred to his country situation and argued that: “The people of Greece have suffered tremendously in the last years, the extended recession has affected today the lives of 28% of population. The time has come to launch new programmes to create jobs but these changes begin at the grassroots level, from local authorities. Regions and municipalities should now look at the new landscape and adjust their role to better deliver growth”.
Referring to the need to address the lack of confidence felt towards the EU, Governor Sgouros said, “We need more Europe: if we do not have more Europe the problem of the crisis will continue. A single Europe is imperative and a single Europe without Greece is not possible. The Union was born from the ashes of the war. We are able to rise again but we need now to move forward together, with solidarity and unity between all the citizens of Europe".
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