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PM Samaras: 'We will follow the example of Ireland'
Greece is turning a new page, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday said after meeting with his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny in Maximos Mansion, government headquarters in Athens. The Irish prime minister conveyed the solidarity of the Irish people and noted that Prime Minister Samaras has changed Greece's image abroad during the past year.
In statements made after the meeting, Samaras highlighted the efforts with the Irish prime minister "for a more balanced policy in the EU that combines fiscal and recovery measures. At first, we were the only ones to talk about it, but now we are not alone. We both represent countries that are on a convergence programme, with different terms and causes, but both our peoples are suffering. "Ireland could serve as an example to Greece, he said: "Two years after the crisis and following waves of reforms Ireland has entered a recovery course and is very close to returning to the international markets. A very successful EU presidency will be completed soon, and Greece will take over six months after the Irish EU presidency is over. We have the same goals for the EU pPresidency, to create jobs, particularly for the young. We will continue this agenda. ”The Greek premier stressed the need on extroversion and competitiveness to
help the economy recover, and cited the EU country again as an example “when it [Ireland] was in a serious crisis it was competitiveness and extroversion that led it out of the crisis. The choice of competitiveness and extroversion is made by our government as well. We will follow Ireland's example in the low taxation choice as well.” He said that among the issues discussed were the banking union that will be a credibility test for the EU, the creation of jobs, tax evasion and the utilization of Europe's energy resources.
Referring to extroversion, he said that his recent visit to China was part of a plan to “put Greece on the world map, create new jobs and claim a new international role for Greece." The jobs would also be created through investments and privatisations and he said Greece was turning into a business-friendly country by fighting red tape and bureacracy.
Samaras also said the government will fight for lowering the VAT in food services, from the current 23 pct to a 15 pct and then 13 pct, an issue he said there is disagreement on with the troika of lenders (EU, ECB and IMF). "The low tax rates helped Ireland in its efforts. I repeat that I want a single tax rate of 15 pct. We will implement this system, as soon as our finances allow and after our goals are met,” he said, further noting that "the VAT rate increase on food catering services from 11 pct to 23 pct created less revenues than anticipated by the troika...a return to 13 pct will bring more revenues and improve the psychology" created by the economy and high unemployment.
"Things are going well but we shouldn't be overly optimistic. Rather, we should be reliable and avoid big words," he concluded.
On his part, Enda Kenny stated that he met Samaras several years ago in the European People's Party (EPP), noting that the Greek prime minister was always "the voice of reason and progress" and that he understands the hardships of the Greek people and the opportunities that exist.
“He has changed how foreigners view Greece. They see the stability in the country and the political system. Before the Irish EU Presidency, I had said that I wanted to come here and express my respect to his efforts and work and convey the solidarity of the Irish people,” he stressed.
The Irish prime minister said that he briefed Samaras on the Irish EU presidency priorities - the digital market, the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020, the European budget, the EU-US trade agreement, the banking union and youth unemployment. He noted there are roughly 6 billion euros in community funds aimed at combating unemployment through quality programmes.
Referring to the problems his government had with the troika, he said that there was a lot of tension, with commitments that had to be made and new proposals had to be presented. When a country has a memorandum “somebody should be able to negotiate and meet the commitments undertaken,” he underlined.
Both leaders made a special note of the large diaspora of the two countries; how to call on its assistance was the focus of a luncheon hosted in honour of the Irish prime minister at the Museum of the Acropolis.