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Greece Gives EU Blueprint 2.0 for Post-Pandemic Recovery

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020 file photo, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference after the weekly College of Commissioners meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

ATHENS – Further easing out of an already lenient COVID-19 lockdown and opening stores and malls across the country, Greece's New Democracy government's post-Pandemic comeback plan – called 2.0 – has been sent to the European Union.

After the economy shrank some 10.5 percent in 2020 as the pandemic was raging, forecasts from the Bank of Greece and the Finance Ministry are optimistic, if muted for 2021, with growth of as much as 7 percent seen through 2027, said the Reuters news agency.

The EU will give Greece 18.2 billion euros ($21.98 billion) in grants and 13 billion euros ($15.7 billion) in cheap loans that are almost 16 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 165.88 billion euros ($200.3 billion.)

That will leverage private sector equity and loans which could see the total value rise to some 60 billion euros ($72.45 billion) to propel a faster recovery once the pandemic subsides enough, through vaccinations.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier said a four-pronged scheme would bring the country back from the effect of the health crisis that hit as his government was beginning to accelerate a slow recovery from a near-decade-long economic and austerity catastrophe, effects still lingering.

Some 70 projects were proposed, including green energy transformation, digital upgrades, boosting high-speed internet, training and social cohesion measures as well as some traditional road and transport infrastructure, the report added.

Αlternate Finance Minister Theodoros Skylakakis, in charge of the Recovery Fund, on Wednesday morning visited the Representative Office of the European Commission in Athens and handed over to the Acting Head of the Representation, George Moschovis, a copy of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan "Greece 2.0" , which was officially sent and posted on the European Union system on Tuesday.

Skylakakis made the following statement:

"Our National Recovery and Resilience Plan 'Greece 2.0' was submitted to the European Commission last night. The Plan includes 106 investment programmes and 67 reforms that are accurately described and costed in 4,104 pages. Greece, which thanks to the negotiation made by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has gained the most resources, per capita, in Europe from the Recovery Fund, is the second country to submit its final plan.

I would like to thank all those who have worked so far in the joint effort for the feverish and difficult work it took to get here. The ministers and the groups of the ministries, the members of the Executive Committee for the Recovery Fund, the Deputy Minister of Coordination of the Government Project, Akis Skertsos, the Secretary General of Public Investments and NSRF, Dimitris Skalkos, the head of the Financial Office of the Prime Minister, Alexis Patelis, the President of the Council of Economic Experts, Michalis Argyrou, the General Secretary Coordination, Thanassis Kontogeorgis and the Commander of the Special Service of the Recovery Fund, Nikos Mantzoufas.

Above all, however, the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for his trust and guidance.

The first step was taken. Now the even more difficult task of absorbing the huge resources of the Fund follows, which will allow the country to realise not only a dynamic recovery, but to enter a permanent long-term course of development and change of its productive model, for the benefit of all Greek society. Our plan has the maturity that allows us to start the projects and investments of the Fund as early as tomorrow, with our own resources, until the money of the Fund arrives, after the approval of our plan, [which is expected to happen] by the middle of the summer. The challenge is huge, but the opportunity for Greece is unique."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Greece's recovery plan, especially its focus on strategic areas such as green and digital policy, in a message posted on Twitter in Greek and English.

"We have received Greece's Recovery & Resilience plan. Good to see that it focusses on strategic areas for the country's future: green [and] digital, jobs, skills, private investment and reform. After [an] assessment [Greece] could receive up to 30.5 billion [euros] under #NextGenerationEU," her tweet said.