Commissioner Moscovisi talks to CNA about the Greek issue, the future of the eurozone and his EC presidency hint

Pier Moscovici, the EU Commissioner on Economy and Finances, explains his bid for the Presidency of the European Commission, his role in the negotiations for the conclusion of the 2nd Greek Review and his views on the future of the Eurogroup format of the Council, in an interview with CNA. Commissioner Moscovici reminds that in 2019, it will be fifteen years since the last time a centre-left politician � Romano Prodi � headed the Commission. He also reiterates that economic policy for the eurozone needs to be steered by a formal body with decision-making powers, chaired by a eurozone finance minister, who will be at the same time EU Commissioner.

More specifically, Commissioner Moscovici recently hinted that he might be interested to be the PES/S&D spitzenkandidat for the EU Commission President Position. Invited to comment on that by CNA he said that “In 2019, it will be fifteen years since the last time a centre-left politician � Romano Prodi � headed the Commission. Yes, as a social democrat and as an experienced and convinced European, this could be of interest to me, when the time comes. But it is not a question for today.

He further said that Europes socialist family first needs to work at renewing its ideas � notably about tackling social and economic inequalities � and at rebuilding its connection with voters. That will take time. In the meantime, we have a lot of work still to do in the Commission over the next two years, including on Greece. I have always refused Grexit and fought for a solution which can give hope for the Greek people: I am proud of this”.

Asked to elaborate on his views on the future governance of the Eurozone he stated: “The Eurogroup remains an informal body, which does not take formal decisions but which is the scene of important political discussions affecting the lives of millions of Europeans. And these happen behind closed doors, with relatively little public, democratic scrutiny.

This, he pointed out, cannot continue.

Economic policy for the eurozone needs to be steered by a formal body with decision-making powers, chaired by a eurozone finance minister who I believe, as is well known, should also be the responsible member of the Commission. And this figure should be accountable to the European Parliament, or more precisely to a specific formation within the European Parliament composed of MEPs from the eurozone countries. This is about efficiency, accountability, democracy”, Moscovisi added.

Commissioner Moscovici also denies the “Game of Thrones” reporting on alleged disproportionate disagreements with Germany and other Member States. “The press loves to portray politics in Europe as the last episode of Game of Thrones, but I can assure you that these discussions remained calm and orderly. That is not to say they were not very difficult. There was after all a lot at stake, and there were firmly held positions that were hard to reconcile. But we got there. That is what matters,” he noted.

Regarding Greece, the Commissioner clarifies, once and for all, that he did not raise the expectations of the Greek Government on the potential Eurogroup agreement. “I was always positive that we would reach an agreement, however hard the negotiations were and however long it took. It was simply inconceivable that having come so far since 2015, the partners in the Greek programme would not find common ground and would allow all the progress made to be lost. So I was positive and optimistic from start to end. After all, the optimism of the will is what drives us forward in politics,” he said.

“That said, I utterly reject the allegations I have read in the press in recent days that I was somehow responsible for unrealistic expectations. It was always clear that a debt deal would have to remain anchored to the May 2016 Eurogroup statement”, he stressed.

He was also adamant on his early warning about Greeces bid on ECBs Quantitative Easing. “Of course, I always made very clear that this was a matter for the ECB. And that the ECB is an independent institution that takes such decisions entirely on its own. Furthermore, I advised the Greek government that in my view they should not expect immediate decisions”.

On the deal itself, he stressed that: “It was made very clear by several ministers that the May 2016 framework remained binding. The agreement of 15 June is a positive deal. We are talking about deferring interest payments and extending maturities by up to 15 years! This is very significant and that should be recognized”.

CNA asked if the President of the EC had an overriding role in the negotiations. “The President of the Eurogroup was responsible for managing the discussions in the Eurogroup, meaning bringing all the different threads together � the policy programme, the debt commitments, the participation of the IMF. And frankly, he did so very skillfully,” Moscovisi answered.

He added that “the Commission’s role is primarily related to negotiating and overseeing compliance with the policy conditions, together with the other institutions. And within the Commission, the division of labor is clear: President Juncker has a clear strategy, that we share since the beginning, he has entrusted me to be the Commission’s chief negotiator on Greece, which I do in close cooperation with him”.

Invited to comment on his working relationship with the Greek Government, his contacts with the PM and what he advise them for the last programme year, he replied that “I have an excellent working relationship with the Greek government, both with Alexis Tsipras and Euclid Tsakalotos as well as other members. During the key periods of discussions on the programme, I speak with them very frequently. Greece has come a very long way since the dramatic summer of 2015. Many very difficult measures have been passed and I am well aware of the sacrifices the Greek people have made in order to stabilise their economy and safeguard their place in the eurozone. The end of this long tunnel of austerity is now in sight”.

He also added that “the coming year will be primarily about ensuring the effective implementation of the major reforms adopted over the past two years. Without effective implementation, the efforts made to pass all this legislation would be for nothing! This concerns for instance the measures taken to strengthen the financial sector and reform the energy sector, as well as taking forward the privatisation programme. The roll-out of the guaranteed minimum income scheme is also particularly important as this is key to building a modern social welfare system for Greek citizens”

“Our aim is”, he says, “for the programme to conclude on time next August, for it to conclude successfully. We will discuss the details nearer the time. what matters is that Greece should be able to stand on its own two feet again. That has been the overriding aim of all the work that has been done these past years. And we will get there”.

He also warns against unilateral action similar to the December 2016 case on pensions. “I understand the reasons for the government’s actions last December, but it is true that the move did not help to build trust between partners. I am quite confident that the lessons have been learned. We should all work to avoid surprises”.

Finally, Commissioner Moscovisi was invited to comment on the sequencing of the upcoming reviews. “The third review will get underway in the autumn. Let’s cross each bridge as we come to it,” he said.

Source: Cyprus News Agency