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Kerry praises Greece for tough economic choices

18 january 2014, 14:04
US Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Greek government Friday for making "tough choices" to resolve the country's economic crisis and said he believed the situation was improving, AFP reports.

Kerry welcomed Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos to the State Department, as Greece takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

"I want to congratulate Greece on assuming the EU presidency, and we look forward very much to working with them in that role, but also in continuing the path towards economic recovery," the top US diplomat said.

"We know that it has been very, very difficult. Tough decisions had to be made. It is never easy politically. Those choices were made, and I think it is improving."

Venizelos said the six-month EU presidency was "a great opportunity for Greece to show the face of an ordinary European country, of a country beyond the crisis."

"Without doubt, the main Greek national problem is the crisis and the national reconstruction after this very tough experience of the recession and... unemployment," he said.

Greece is heading into 2014 with some optimism following six years of recession, with Greek leaders predicting the economy would need no further aid after it exits its bailout program this year.

Athens is eyeing a slight growth in GDP of around 0.6 percent this year but there is strong belief that Greece's weakened economy will require more EU-International Monetary Fund assistance.

The country is still grappling with massive debt and a fiscal shortfall, which it still needs to address with the EU-IMF creditors. Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters earlier this month there was a a financing gap of around 11 billion euros ($15 billion) for the second part of 2014 and 2015 to consider.

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