European leaders have voiced their strong desire for Greece to remain in the eurozone and honor its commitments under previously agreed bailout deals that require the implementation of reforms and unpopular austerity measures, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said late Wednesday.
Rompuy made the remarks during a press conference held after an informal summit of European leaders in Brussels to discuss ways for boosting growth in Europe. The summit also discussed plans to ensure stability in the 17-member eurozone in wake of the ongoing sovereign debt crises being faced by several member-states of the single currency bloc, including Greece.
"We want Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitments," Rompuy said Wednesday after the summit, adding that it was vital for Greece to implement the reforms demanded in the bailout deals for overcoming its economic problems.
"We are fully aware of the significant efforts already made by the Greek citizens. The eurozone has shown considerable solidarity having already disbursed, together with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) nearly 150bn euros in support of Greece since 2010," he said.
Stressing that the EU would initiate steps to prompt economic growth as well as creating new jobs in Greece, Rompuy said "continuing vital reforms" by Greece and other debt-stricken member-nations were "the best guarantee for a more prosperous future in the euro area."
Rompuy also expressed hopes that the new Greek government that emerges from next month's general elections would choose to implement the reforms and austerity measures needed to bring the crisis-hit nation back on the road to progress.
Despite calls made by European leaders for Greece to remain in the eurozone and honor its commitments agreed in exchange for bailout loans, it is understood that the eurozone is preparing itself for the possible exit of Greece from the single currency bloc.
Incidentally, fresh elections were called in Greece after none of the country's political parties managed to secure the required majority for forming a government of their own in the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Subsequent negotiations aimed at forming a coalition government also failed, mainly due to differences between the political parties over the implementation of the austerity programs agreed under the bailout deals.
Recent opinion polls suggest that the new election could deliver an equally fragmented parliament, with left-wing coalition Syriza, which opposes the government's austerity measures for securing a bailout, becoming the largest party. Syriza wants to renegotiate the bailout package - a demand already rejected by Germany.
The EC President said Wednesday's meeting was "about putting pressure, focusing minds and clearing the air. Noting that deficit reduction and growth are two sides of the same coin, he said: "Without sound public finances there can be no sustainable growth; but without sustainable growth, the measures to bring our debt levels under control will be done in vain."
Stressing that Wednesday's discussions were "focused and frank," Rompuy said the leaders agreed on the need for mobilizing EU policies to fully support growth, stepping up efforts to finance the economy through investments and strengthening job-creation.
It is understood that the European leaders on Wednesday discussed the debated issue of launching eurobonds for easing the ongoing eurozone debt crisis. Newly inaugurated French President Francois Hollande has been calling for launching eurobonds to cover the debts of the eurozone nations despite being aware of Germany's continued objection to such bonds.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated during Wednesday's summit that eurobonds violate previous EU treaties and would "not contribute to kick-starting growth," Hollande insisted that the proposed bonds should be actively considered.
Incidentally, Hollande had earlier criticized Merkel for basing her policies for resolving the crisis on stringent austerity measures and called for renegotiating the European budget-discipline pact pushed by the German Chancellor.
Notably, Germany and France are the eurozone's two biggest economies as well as the biggest contributors to its bailout funds, giving them a greater say in matters related to the strategy aimed at pulling the bloc out of the crisis.
The European leaders also debated Wednesday whether to give more time to debt-stricken eurozone members for meeting their budget deficit goals. Incidentally, Wednesday's informal summit was mainly held to promote ideas on growth and job creation ahead of an upcoming formal meeting in June.
by RTT Staff Writer
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