By Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged the main political parties in Greece to back the country’s third bailout and carry out long-delayed reforms regardless of who wins elections scheduled for this month.
His message in his first State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday came as opinion polls show no clear winner in the Sept. 20 elections, with the leftist Syriza party tied with conservative New Democracy.
“For Greece, the key now is to implement the deal which was agreed. There has to be broad political ownership for this,” the EU executive’s chief said.
“Broad support and timely delivery of the reforms is what Greece needs, so that confidence can return both among the Greek people and to the Greek economy.”
Juncker said that Greece’s new government must respect the bailout agreement struck with the euro zone in July, or EU resolve to keep Athens in the single currency bloc could change.
“It was absolutely essential for us to recognise and to say that Grexit was not an option. If we hadn’t said that loudly and clearly, Grexit could have happened,” he said, adding that he had been deeply disturbed by comments in recent months of a Greek exit from the euro zone.
“We have agreed on a programme and I would like this programme to be respected by all future Greek governments. This time we all need to realise that we are serious and for real and we require respect of the arrangements and agreements that have been reached,” Juncker said.
“If this time rules agreed will not be respected, the reaction of the European Union and the euro zone will be different.”