Greece hopes for calmer EU waters after Samaras’ EU tour

Greece hopes for calmer EU waters after Samaras’ EU tour

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Greece hopes for calmer EU waters after Samaras’ EU tour

Greek Prime Minister Samaras (L) greets French President Hollande. AFP photo

Greece voiced hope yesterday that a charm offensive around Europe by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will halt a barrage of criticism as it labours to put delayed reforms on track and restore its credibility.

Samaras met in succession with key EU leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker to stress that his government intended to honour its commitments to EU and IMF creditors.

“I’d like to believe that the meetings enabled us to slowly reverse a climate that existed against our homeland,” the prime minister told NET radio.

“I repeat, slowly, because everyone is asking for proof that we are changing course. The effort will continue,” Samaras said.

 “The main goal was to say ‘you have a credible interlocutor, that a new start has been made,” political commentator Panagiotis Panagiotou told state TV NET.

“And secondly, to stop talk that Greece will be tossed out of the eurozone.” The meetings came as Samaras’ coalition government prepares for a battle in parliament in the autumn to push through reform legislation that could test the cohesion of his socialist and moderate leftist allies.

A technical team from the auditor mission that monitors Greece’s reform progress on behalf of its ‘troika’ of creditors -- the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank -- also returns to Athens this week.
The auditors are working with Greek officials to finalise a cuts package of 11.5 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in 2013 and 2014.

A positive report from the ‘troika’ is essential for Greece to get the next 31.5 billion euro installment of funds, part of a 130-billion-euro bailout, to keep it afloat.

In his first foreign tour since becoming PM, Samaras called in Berlin and Paris for a halt in “toxic” statements which he said were hampering the country’s efforts to attract investors.

‘Greece became punching bag’

“In recent weeks Greece had become a punching bag for the Germans, the Finns, the Dutch,” noted political commentator Antonis Papagiannidis.

The run-up to Samaras’ meetings was colored by negative reports about Greece in the German press and renewed pressure on Athens by officials. The tone did not markedly change yesterday.

“Merkel may have said she wanted to keep Greece in the eurozone but did not speak of possible concessions,” said Sueddeutsche Zeitung while Bild am Sonntag quoted the general secretary of Merkel’s sister party CSU saying that he “sees Greece out of the euro in 2013.”

Berliner Zeitung contributed a cartoon that showed Samaras looking for the bathroom in the German chancellery and stumbling into a room labelled “Grexit Taskforce.”

According to a report in the Financial Times Deutschland, a secret cell has been set up within Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s ministry to examine the possible consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone.