Olli Rehn orders Greeks to ‘sell’ €130bn deal to people
THE GREEK government was challenged today to "sell" its latest austerity deal to the public and end a "spiral of unsustainable finances".
EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed a Greek parliament vote backing extra national belt-tightening demanded by Brussels in return for a second massive bail-out worth €130 billion.
But now, he said, it had to be implemented - and he insisted rioters who wreaked havoc on the streets of Athens in response to more cutbacks did not represent the "vast majority" of Greek citizens.
Eurozone ministers will meet later this week to decide whether Greece has done enough to qualify for the EU-IMF bail-out Athens desperately needs to avoid bankruptcy in mid-March.
Mr Rehn, speaking in Brussels, stopped short of confirming that the bail-out was now a certainty, pointing out that other conditions had to be met by Greece in addition to parliamentary backing for a tougher austerity package.
"Yesterday's vote was a 'crucial step' towards adoption of the (bail-out) programme," said Mr Rehn.
"I am confident that the other conditions, including the identification of concrete measures of €325 million euro will be completed by the next meeting of the eurogroup, which will then decide on the adoption of the programme."
The vote had been "an expression of the determination prevailing in the country to put an end to the spiral of unsustainable public finances and to the loss of competitiveness".
Mr Rehn went on: "In the last weeks, there have been tensions both in Greece and within its partners. The correction of the serious imbalances affecting the Greek economy, and the restoration of the conditions for growth and jobs, are a long-term endeavour."
The EU would stand by the Greek people, he added, but the Greek authorities had to "take full ownership and make the case (for the bail-out) and then fully implement it".
The austerity programme would be "very demanding" but it would "pave the way to redress a difficult situation".
The Commissioner pointed out: "In any case, Greece should have implemented most measures to balance its economy and boost sustainable growth and employment many years ago, even in the absence of such a (bail-out) programme, as the country has systematically lived beyond its means for a decade."
Mr Rehn condemned the "unacceptable violence" in Athens, insisting: "These individuals do not represent the vast majority of Greek citizens who are genuinely concerned for the future of their country and who are showing determination and resilience."