Video message by Commissioner Elisa Ferreira at the Conference “What’s new in the Partnership Agreement 2021-2027”, Greece

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear Prime Minister Mitsotakis,

Dear Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Dear President Tzitzikostas,

Dear colleagues,

In these unstable times, we need a firm foundation.

In Greece, and in Europe, we have faced crisis after crisis. From the financial crisis to Covid, and now Russia’s unprovoked aggression of Ukraine, which is driving out refugees and driving up food and energy prices.

These crises have taken their toll. Our goal is to recover and become more resilient to withstand future shocks. But to do so in a way that reduces old disparities and prevents the emergence of new ones. Economic, social and territorial cohesion is a key component of our resilience as a Union, as economies, as societies.

Greece made a dynamic recovery after being hit hard by the pandemic, with 8.5% GDP growth for 2021 and a projected 3.5% growth for 2022. And yet, employment has still not recovered to pre-2008 levels. Some Greek regions are caught in a development trap of low productivity and brain drain.

These are the times we live in. These are the instabilities that we need to address. And we need a firm foundation on which to build. A solid plan for the future, with cohesion at its heart backed by solid investments.

The Partnership Agreement and associated Operational Programmes is that plan, and the 21 billion euros of European Funds for Greece are those investments.

My thanks to the Ministry of Development, and to all the partners for the very constructive discussions we had over the past months. My thanks too for your commitment, energy and determination to set up a strategy of the highest quality.

With our Partnership Agreement, Greece and Europe set out a common vision. A firm foundation for the future, based on 3 key elements:

First, a modern, innovative, digital Greece. The 8th Cohesion Report found that many Greek regions, as others across Europe, are caught in a development trap, needing to modernise and diversify their economic models.

So we will invest in a more modern economy. Together with the partners, we have identified key sectors of opportunity, where Greece’s natural advantages could be used as a springboard for equitable and sustainable growth.

We will invest in skills and innovation, in sectors such as higher-end and green tourism, renewable energy, the deployment of which carries a new sense of urgency now, agrofood and pharmaceuticals. From feta to pharmaceuticals, from wine to wind turbines, we want to create attractive opportunities in many sectors, and across Greece, boosting economic prospects for all regions.

The Digital sector is the enabler of many of these innovations and modernisation. Therefore Greece needs to improve on all the indicators of the Digital Economy and Society Index.

Greece is making significant progress in the provision of e-services for citizens and businesses, and we will build on this. So, we will invest in digital skills, we will invest in the digitalisation of companies and we will invest in the digitalisation of public services.

Our second priority is a greener Greece. This is the great adventure, this is Europe’s odyssey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral continent.

Greece is doubly blessed, with sun and sea. Let me congratulate you on your commitment to make the most of these resources, by investing in renewable energy sources, to produce clean energy, especially for islands, but not just.

Pollution reduction aside, important as it is, green energy today equals independence from imported fossil fuels. Decarbonisation gained a new meaning in these past few months.

We will also invest in energy efficiency projects, and we will invest in green public transport. These past years, we have successfully worked together on urban transport in Athens and Thessaloniki. I welcome your commitment to build on this experience, upgrading public transport in towns and cities all across Greece.

We will also invest in new waste facilities, to enable Greece to meet the ambitious EU recycling target of up to 65% by 2035.

Since climate change has led to more floods and fires, we particularly welcome your suggestion to create a dedicated programme for civil protection. This will work on risk prevention, as well as setting up emergency assistance, including health assistance, for times of disaster.

Our third priority is to ensure, in this green and digital future Greece, that no person and no region is left behind.

We will use the European Social Fund Plus, to support skills for the future, as well as social cohesion.

And one third of the investments under the Partnership Agreement will be used to support local development in all Greek regions. Together with local people, we will draw up plans to develop cities and regions across Greece.

A particular concern, is those areas dependent on lignite. Your bold decision to swiftly detach the economy and energy market from lignite will mean we need to look for new sources of jobs in Western Macedonia and  Megalopolis.

So, under the Just Transition Fund, we will invest in diversification of these areas, and in the re-skilling of miners.

In conclusion, dear colleagues, today is the opportunity to turn the page, to start a new chapter.

You, the programmers and partners of Greece, are the authors of this new chapter, and of our Partnership Agreement. Together we have written it, together we must make leap from the page, and into reality.

So we must put down the planner’s pen, and roll up our sleeves, to prepare a pipeline of good, sustainable projects.

Greece was the first European country to have an approved Partnership Agreement, the first to have an approved Just Transition Fund programme, and your programmes are among the first as well.

I like the look of this new story, and I am keen to see the next pages, and the things we accomplish together, in the coming months and years. I wish you all: success!

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