Greek PM hosts euro zone chief, asks for ‘air to breathe’
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras starts a European charm offensive on Wednesday with talks to persuade euro zone chief Jean-Claude Juncker that the debt-laden nation has the will to ram through unpopular reforms and deserves more time to do it.business Updated: Aug 22, 2012 21:08 IST
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras starts a European charm offensive on Wednesday with talks to persuade euro zone chief Jean-Claude Juncker that the debt-laden nation has the will to ram through unpopular reforms and deserves more time to do it.
With cash coffers empty and renewed talk of a Greek euro zone exit without aid, Samaras is under pressure to persuade European leaders that Greece has finally mustered the political courage to fulfill promises.
Juncker, the most influential European policymaker to visit Athens since the conservative-led government took power in June, is expected to tell Samaras that little room for leeway exists.
That message is likely to be hammered home again to the Greek leader when he travels to Berlin on Friday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to Paris a day later for talks with French President Francois Hollande.
Samaras tried to ease fears, particularly strong in Germany, that Greece demands ever more money without delivering on its promises. “All we want is a bit of ‘air to breathe’ to get the economy running and to increase state income,” he told Germany’s Bild newspaper.
“Let me be very explicit: we demand no additional money. We stand by our commitments and will be fulfilling all our requirements,” he added.
Shortly after being elected, Samaras’s government promised he would tour Europe to seek two more years to hit targets under Greece’s €130 billion bailout from EU and IMF.
But faced with the risk of a messy bankruptcy without further aid, the government has since toned down its rhetoric on the issue and now expects merely to broach the idea during talks this week rather than formally requesting it.