Since then, the exceptional measures of President Juncker’s Jobs & Growth Plan for Greece have born fruits, with €2 billion of Cohesion Policy funding released on the ground since October. Thanks to this and to the efforts of the Greek authorities, Greece now ranks first in the EU in terms of implementation rate.
But major challenges remain, and 2016 is a crucial, as the authorities to finish the 07-13 project within the next 12 months, especially emblematic transport and environmental projects. The first calls for 2014-2020 projects have to be launched shortly and mistakes of the past should not be repeated; there is no time to lose.
But since my first visit Greece has especially been stricken with one of the biggest challenges we ever had to face as a Union: the refugee crisis. I reiterated the full support of the Commission to Greece. For many months now we have been consistently and continuously working for a coordinated European response on the refugees and migration front. The country is facing unprecedented pressure at its borders and needs our support to substantially increase reception capacities. We are now working full speed to deploy the necessary emergency measures - including emergency funding and the civil protection mechanism - should the situation in Greece so require.
I reminded the national and regional stakeholders I met that the Structural Funds can and should help, and invited them to consider the possibility of modifying existing programmes, either to tackle the emergency of the crisis or to fund social integration measures for migrants.
I ended my visit on a positive note, with the visit of a successful Cohesion-Policy funded project, Matrix Pack, the first producer of drinking straws in Europe. The intervention of the ERDF helped the company expand and enter global markets; it is now present in 35 countries.
I wish to see more projects like this on in Greece, able to boost the real economy. For quality projects to go off the ground I also informed the Greek authorities of the new opportunities offered by the combination of the European Structural and Investment Funds and the EFSI, the heart of the Investment Plan.