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10 March, 2000
Greece was joining the European Union's economic and monetary union (EMU) by virtue of its achievements, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said at an Athens event as Greece submitted its formal application Thursday for euro zone membership.
The efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people have borne fruit, Simitis stressed.
In letters by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to his EU counterparts and by National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou to Portuguese Finance Minister Pino Mora, who currently chairs the EU's council of economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN), and EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Pedro Solbes, all dated Thursday, March 9, Greece formally applied for euro zone entry and adoption of the common European currency 'euro' as of January 1, 2001, in accordance with Article 122 (paragraph 2) of the EU Treaty.
In his letters, Papantoniou outlined the substantial progress achieved by the Greek economy, noting that Greece's GDP growth rate was well above the EU average, while harmonized inflation was running at near 2 percent.
Papantoniou further wrote that the Greek interest rates were very close to those of the euro zone, while the general state deficit was below the ceiling set out by the Treaty.
He also said adaptation of the labor market was progressing, adding that the Greek people and government desired Greece's full participation in Economic and Monetary Union.
Simitis: EMU membership the start of a new era for Greece:
"Today we are closing a cycle and we are beginning a new one for Greece and its citizens", Simitis said at the event.
"We are joining Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) by virtue of our achievements and all the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people have borne fruit," Simitis noted.
EMU membership means a new environment for the country and its citizens. Greece would promote its vital economic and national interests inside the euro zone, Simitis said, stressing that "we are here today thanks to the responsible and stable policy choices we have made since 1993 and particularly after 1996".
Simitis paid tribute to two leading Greek statesmen, Constantine Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou, who contributed decisively to the country's course towards European integration, as he noted. The first signed Greece's entry into the then European Economic Community (EEC) and the latter ensured community funds necessary for the country's development.
"We are closing a 25-year cycle of economic, social and political developments. The Greek economy has a prospect of long-term stability because foreign exchange risks are fading, interest rates are falling and the business environment becomes more stable," Simitis said.
The government pledged to change the course of the country in 1996 through stabilization, development and social justice policies. "We are proud to have achieved this triple aim without sacrificing any of its aspects. We are probably the only country to enter EMU that does not only cut but raises its social spending," the Prime Minister said.
"Achieving economic targets is not a rational conquest or a statistical success, but a social conquest. It directly benefits all citizens while an environment of low inflation and lower interest rates protects incomes and ensures economic growth," he said.
Simitis said approval of the country's application at an EU summit in Lisbon in June would help in pushing the country's course to a more stable and effective level.
He stressed, however, that progress did not end here.
"Efforts must be continued and enhanced to achieve the best possible results for the Greek people," Simitis said.
He underlined that the country needed a stable government after the April 9 general elections.
Papantoniou stresses economic achievements:
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, addressing the same event, said EMU membership signaled the start of a new era of creativity and progress for the country.
He also stressed that Greece was joining EMU on its own merits with no political conditions or commitments following the fulfillment of all EMU convergence criteria.
"Economic progress was significant, the public debt fell, inflation is much lower compared with the previous years, while productivity and wages have increased," Papantoniou said.
The Greek citizen's average income, at 62 percent of the EU average in 1993, now stands at 70 percent.
"We have created a strong economy and now we can build the land of our vision," Papantoniou said.
Source: Athens News Agency