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Greece can not afford to lose European funds: EU commissioner

(Xinhua)

10:05, September 13, 2011

ATHENS, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Debt-ridden Greece can not afford to lose time and vital European funds available for development boosting projects, said European Union (EU) Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Monday during a one-day visit in Athens.

"There is no time for waste in this crucial period for Greece. There are no alternatives. Greece can not afford to lose any European funds available," said Hahn during a joint press briefing with Greek Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis, amidst scenarios of an imminent Greek default.

The European Commissioner held a string of meetings with Greek officials on Monday aiming to accelerate the pace the euro zone country absorbs over 12 billion euros (about 16.35 billion U.S. dollars) European funds available under the 2007-2013 National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

Due to chronic bureaucratic burdens and the debt crisis that has hit Greece hard since late 2009, Athens does not fully use some billion euros already secured in EU coffers years ago, since the government can not co- finance the development projects.

Greece narrowly escaped bankruptcy in May 2010, depending on an EU/International Monetary Fund multi-billion euro bailout package ever since to meet fundamental financial needs, with a limited budget for state investments.

Greek government officials, such as Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sachinidis, admitted on Monday that Greece today can meet urgent financial needs with its own cash reserves only until mid-October this year. Foreign aid is vital to avoid an economic collapse, restore stability and return to growth by 2014 through austerity and development boosting policies.

"The European Commission wants to give a boost to Greece," stressed Hahn, noting that the commission agreed to increase its own co-financing rates in such programs up to 95 percent for troubled EU economies, such as Greece, Ireland or Portugal.

Hahn will return to Athens next week for a seminar on regional funding aiming to counter bureaucracy.

Asked to comment on the Greek default scenarios and the latest German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler's quote that an "orderly default" for Greece can not be ruled out if Greek efforts to tackle the debt crisis will be deemed insufficient, the European official attributed the whole discussion on "anxiety in critical times."

He underlined Gremany's significant contribution to NSRF and vivid interest of German investors for Greece.

On the part of the Greek government, Chryssohoidis added that in a sign of good will to support Greece overcome this major challenge, Roesler is due to visit Athens next month.

"We live in the rhythm of war tension, but there is a strong will that Greece will move into a new model of development that safeguards a better future," said the Greek official.

Regarding the absorption rate of NSRF funds, Chryssohoidis has noted that in 15 months Greece secured 4.3 billion euros (5.86 billion dollars), while in the previous three years the total amounted to 725 million euros (988.1 million dollars), despite recent woes.

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