German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she’s willing to discuss a Greek request for more time to meet the terms of its international rescue, leaving the door open to potential concessions.
Merkel, responding to a reporter’s question in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, said that she wants to talk over the matter with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras when he travels to Berlin on Aug. 24.
“We won’t find solutions on Friday,” Merkel said. Leaders must instead await a report being drawn up by the so-called troika of Greece’s international creditors: the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. “We will wait for the troika’s report and then we’ll take decisions,” Merkel said.
Samaras used an interview in Germany’s best-selling Bild newspaper to call for more time to carry out policy changes to address his country’s debt woes, saying that granting an extension “doesn’t necessarily mean more money.” Greece’s governing coalition favors an extension of its fiscal adjustment program by two years to 2016.
“All we want is a little more air to breathe to get the economy going and increase government revenue,” Samaras told Bild ahead of a meeting in Athens with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of euro area finance ministers.
Hollande in Berlin
Samaras, seeking to persuade Europe’s policy makers to continue the aid payments needed to keep Greece in the euro, travels on to Paris on Aug. 25 for talks with French President Francois Hollande. Hollande is due in Berlin Thursday to meet with Merkel.
Hollande “will be watchful to make sure the integrity of the euro zone is maintained” in his talks with Merkel, French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters in Paris today. “Greece must respect its engagements. At the same time we must give it prospects for growth.”
In the European Union, “it’s not just about economic questions, but about deeply political questions and thus also about the future of Europe as a whole,” Merkel said. “That’s the spirit with which I approach talks with the French president as well.” The euro hasn’t overcome “mistakes” made at its creation, she said. “So I’m tackling this in the knowledge that we have to succeed, that every partner has to meet its obligations.”
Samaras told Bild that his government is making progress carrying out “structural reforms” and selling state assets. Greece stands by its commitments even after the economy contracted by a fifth over the past three years, the standard of living dropped by a third, pensioners lost a fifth of their incomes and half the country’s youth is unemployed, he said.
Abandoning Greece now would increase uncertainty and the vulnerability of the other euro states and lead to dramatic consequences in financial markets, Samaras said, urging that the “spirit of the European Union” must be preserved.
Germany, France and all other countries “must keep to their commitments in the European Union,” Merkel said. “And of course that’s also what we mean when we talk about Greece. What Europe needs to be taken seriously as a partner in the world is credibility.”
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