This joint contribution by the Greek and German Foreign Ministers, Stavros Dimas and Guido Westerwelle, appeared in the Financial Times Deutschland of 23 April 2012.
Last month’s successful “haircut” and the new EU‑IMF rescue package are milestones on Greece’s road towards economic recovery. They have afforded Greece some breathing space and opened up the long-term prospect of sorting out its budget and becoming competitive again. And significantly, the clear message has been sent that Greece is staying a member of the eurozone.
For Greece to succeed, it needs to continue resolutely along the path of reform. That will not be easy. We know what hardship this essential austerity programme means for private and public sector workers and their families. The many people who are bearing the effects of these measures have our sincere respect.
Two things are now crucial.
First off, confidence needs to be regained. Greece has determinedly begun to restructure its state and its economy, an indispensable project for success in the long term. However, all of these efforts would come to nothing if one key ingredient were missing – namely confidence. What is important above all is that the Greek people believe in themselves, in their own capabilities. Added to that, Greece needs the confidence of its partners. Germany supports the path of reform which has been started and is going to remain standing shoulder to shoulder with Greece on that basis.
Secondly, we need to be looking to the future. As well as doing the necessary work of consolidating the country’s public finances, we want to show its people the possibility of a real economic upturn. This means that we need a strategy for growth. Growth and consolidation are not mutually exclusive. It’s a question of finding an intelligent way of combining the two. Other EU countries have demonstrated that it can work. We are convinced that measures to restructure the state and the economy can be combined with targeted incentives for growth to awaken the potential for more jobs and prosperity.
Greece has a lot of opportunities for growth and competitive advantages. One need only consider its development potential for solar and wind power, or the beauty of the Greek landscape that already enchants so many tourists. There are also considerable possibilities for growth and employment in agriculture and a service sector in healthcare and IT that is unencumbered by over-regulation and bureaucracy. The important thing here is to create the right incentives and encourage the corresponding investment.
The most urgent task now is to make sure that Greek companies, especially SMEs, have access to capital again for significant and vital investment. Development banks such as the European Investment Bank have a crucial role to play here. We should also manage to channel unused EU finances into ways of boosting growth, and deal with any bureaucratic obstacles. And finally, the state, businesses and Greece’s international partners should show firmness of purpose in investing in promising landmark projects, like the HELIOS project for producing and selling solar power.
Germany and Greece intend to collaborate closely in this economic upturn. The German-Greek Partnership which the two Governments agreed in May 2010 provides a unique platform for the cooperation and exchange which that will entail.
Of primary importance, however, will be collaboration between the two countries’ businesses. Germany’s six largest travel agents have launched an advertising campaign for holidays in Greece using the slogan “Für echte Freunde zählt nur Vertrauen” – for true friends, only trust counts. This latest initiative is a telling sign of how committed the German tourist industry is to Greece. We call on companies in other sectors too to intensify their contacts and cooperation and help bring the Greek economy back onto the path towards growth.
German-Greek relations have traditionally been close and particularly friendly. Throughout recent decades, we have been working side by side to build a united Europe, and we have stuck together even in difficult times. It is therefore with great concern that we hear the populist voices and moods that are calling that unity into question. We absolutely stand by the friendship that has developed between us – a friendship that will prove its worth in this crisis. All our energies will be dedicated to continuing to nurture it.