Crețu tells Athens ‘We are not Soviet Commissioners’

Greece is concerned about the mass migration of young scientists. Corina Crețu thinks the Juncker Plan is the best solution. [European Parliament/Flickr]

EU Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Crețu called the Greek government yesterday (6 April) to work more closely with the executive regarding the implementation of the Juncker Investment Plan. EURACTIV Greece reports.

Speaking at the EU Citizens’ Dialogue event yesterday (April 6) in Athens, the Romanian Commissioner praised Greece for the EU funds’ absorption rates in the period 2007-2013, but stressed that more efforts should be made in order to take advantage of the Juncker Plan.

Working more closely

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, who was also present at the conference, noted that the Juncker Plan is based on traditional benefit policies but required private investment.

“It will finance new economy initiatives such as green investment, energy, digital skills and innovative research in agriculture,” he said.

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Referring to the Greek case, Deputy Economy Minister Alexis Charitsis commented, “Greece has managed to be at the top of the list concerning the Juncker Plan.”

Crețu does not agree. “I am asking you to proceed more quickly with the implementation of the Juncker Plan and collaborate more closely with Commissioner Jyrki Katainen,” she stated, adding that the executive does not set priorities but can only provide technical assistance.

“We are not Soviet Commissioners,” Crețu remarked.

Regarding the previous programming period (2007-2013), the Romanian Commissioner expressed her satisfaction, saying that “not a single euro was lost”, but she insisted that the Greek government should step up its efforts in the logic of “complementarity of the new financial tools”.

Asked whether the existence of conditionality for approving EU funding in the new programming period will actually be an obstacle, Crețu insisted that, on the contrary, this would offer safeguards for the implementation of structural reforms.

Along the same lines, Charitsis commented, “We must avoid the absorption for absorption” and added that conditionality would facilitate the creation of an environment that will help adapt to the crisis.

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Brain drain and startups

The mass migration of young scientists, also, took centre stage in the discussion. Charitsis discussed how the new financial instruments would be oriented to help businesses create new, stable and quality jobs.

“Yesterday, we decided to increase the budget of three calls for financing startups by €19 million […] we will also give the opportunity to all applicants who receive rating more than 50 joining the program,” he noted.

In order to support entrepreneurship, the Greek politician cited the enactment of two bills by the Greek parliament in November 2016, aiming to simplify business start-up procedures for their licensing. “This should have been adopted decades ago,” he said.