Greece may be in deep trouble with its creditors but Athens has faithfully paid all its EU budget contributions and can count on the bloc's support to boost its stricken economy, EU Budget Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told AFP in an interview Friday.
Greece is a net beneficiary of the complex European Union budget process. Still, so far this year it has paid in 1.13 billion euros out of the total 1.83 billion euros due for 2015, even as it scrapes together the money to pay its increasingly impatient international creditors.
"We are helping Greece by accommodating their more difficult economic situation," Georgieva said, adding that EU structural funds could be fine-tuned to help create much needed jobs.
"There is a significant amount of (such) money of 35.5 billion euros" allocated to Greece in the current 2014-20 budget, the commissioner from Bulgaria noted.
As head of humanitarian affairs in the previous European Commission, Georgieva is familiar with the tough negotiations on the 2014-20 EU budget when British pressure forced the bloc's first real cuts in spending.
"More Europe with less money," is how it has worked out, she said, but added that the answer is simple: "Focus more on the priorities and get results for the money."
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has pressed the 28 member states to get the most from EU funding, stressing the need to boost jobs and growth as the bloc recovers only slowly from the debt crisis.
Juncker has put the emphasis on structural reforms -- a key issue for Greece and many others -- to support a more than 300-billion-euro special investment fund designed to kickstart the economy.
"The Juncker plan is to wake up the liquidity sleeping in our financial system, to give courage to our money, to pump investment into the real economy," Georgieva said.
In past years, the EU budget has not been spent in full and another priority is to make sure that changes, especially to provide finance for the small- and medium-sized businesses which are the backbone of any healthy economy.
- Crunch budget negotiations -
Georgieva, who took over the budget in November 2014 as a senior member of Juncker's new Commission team, is now preparing next year's budget knowing she will face tough talks with member state governments under pressure to cut spending.
According to plans submitted in May, her office has set a budget of 143.5 billion euros for 2016, with 66.5 billion euros for structural funds plus 55.8 billion euros for agriculture.
These two categories account for around 80 percent of the EU budget and spending priorities have to be negotiated with all member states -- an often painful process for all sides.
The Commission gets a freer hand with the remaining 20 percent but of that part, some 10 million euros or nearly half goes directly to pay for running the EU's institutions.
Georgieva also faces a mid-term review next year, as required by the European Parliament, which is meant to review past spending and set objectives for the remainder of the 2014-20 term.
- Eurozone budget? -
There is also an ongoing debate about whether the 19-nation eurozone should have its own budget, as distinct from the overall EU.
This idea has been circulating for some time, alongside suggestions the EU could raise its own funds directly as opposed to relying on member state contributions, but both are hugely controversial with member states such as Britain opposed to giving Brussels any powers at all over taxation.
"Is there a need for fiscal capacity for the eurozone? The question must be addressed," Georgieva said.
"It is not any easy one. We do not want to create two groups but (we) recognise that countries sharing the common currency are different from the others."