VIENNA The European Union should consider a one-billion-euro ($1.1-billion) special investment programme to spur growth in debt-ridden Greece, Austria's finance minister told daily Der Standard in an interview published on Monday.
Hans Joerg Schelling said Greece would only be able to get back on track and regain access to capital markets if it was able to generate sustainable growth in the mid- and long-term. It was important to help the country participate in a pick-up in growth in the euro zone, he added.
There was no immediate comment from Athens which has called for more help and debt relief as it struggles to cope with its financial crisis and attain a budget surplus of 3.5 percent of economic output, excluding debt servicing outlays next year.
"You must assess whether to start a big investment programme through the European Investment Bank or maybe with the (European bailout fund) ESM... to get an additional boost (for the Greek economy)," the paper quoted Schelling as saying.
"I would define a scale of one billion euros."
Schelling, seen as a possible successor to Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said one project could be an investment in renewable energy to make Greece less dependent on energy imports.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) launched a one billion euro credit line to Greek banks in December, mainly to be used for on-lending to small and medium sized companies and firms promoting youth employment.
Greece is on its third bailout from euro zone governments since 2010.
Last week, Athens struck a deal with its international creditors on key elements of a reform package that could unlock bailout funds for the country to help it repay maturing debt in summer.
($1 = 0.9448 euros)
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Andrew Heavens)