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Issue #1562      29 August 2012

Greek PM Antonis Samaras sets off on grovelling EU jaunt

It was the same old story of vain hopes for Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras last week as he kicked off a two-day trip to Berlin and Paris.

Despite clear messages from German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Germany had no appetite for any further concessions to Greece, Mr Samaras continued to press for more time to make spending cuts.

His budgetary hole is said to be close to €14 billion and, with a recession now in its fifth year, Samaras wants a two-year extension from the EU.

But just a day before Mr Samaras arrived Ms Merkel and French President Francois Hollande stressed they wanted to keep Greece in the euro but insisted it must redouble its reform efforts to hack back public spending and accelerate privatisation of anything that was not locked down.

“It is important for me that we all stick to our commitments ... but I will encourage Greece to continue along its path of reforms,” Ms Merkel said.

For his part the French president, who is attracting criticism at home for his readiness to accept Chancellor Merkel’s policies, said he was in favour of Greece remaining in the eurozone but this was in the hands of the Greeks themselves.

In the run-up to the talks Mr Samaras had engaged on a determined charm offensive, telling papers in Germany and France that a Greek exit from the euro would be catastrophic for Europe.

He repeated time and again his mantra that Greece wanted a “little breathing space” to enact key reforms and get the recession-wracked economy moving again.

“The Germans will get their money back, that I guarantee personally. And all the others will get their money back too,” he pledged.

Mr Samaras insisted that “more time does not automatically mean more money.”

But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble appeared to slap down this idea, saying: “More time would, in case of doubt, mean more money.”

And conservative parliamentary leader Volker Kauder was also adamant: “Nowhere is the saying that time is money so true as in this case,” he said. “And we cannot make more money available.”

Morning Star  

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