Merkel: No 'premature judgements' on Greece
by Daniel Mason
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that she would not make decisions about Greece's progress in meeting the terms of its bail-out until a report by the troika of international lenders is published in September.
Speaking alongside Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after the pair held talks in Berlin, Merkel said she would not make "premature judgements" about the highly anticipated results of the review – but added that she wanted Greece to remain part of the eurozone. She said she was "deeply convinced" that Samaras would make the necessary effort to bring Greece's finances back under control.
The Greek prime minister pledged that his government would "stick to its commitments and fulfil its obligations" – while repeating his call for more "time to breathe". It was his first official visit to Germany since taking office in June. He is holding a series meetings with eurozone leaders on Greece's economic crisis: he met Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday and will hold talks with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
The report by officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund will likely determine whether Greece will receive the next €33.5bn installment of bail-out loans. The Greek government is finalising new austerity measures required to make savings of €11.5bn in order to qualify for the next tranche of aid. "We are a proud people and we do not like living off borrowed money," Samaras said. But he acknowledged that Greece had to overcome both a "fiscal deficit and the deficit in confidence".
Both leaders portrayed the meeting as fresh start. "My visit today marks the start of new relations between our two countries," said Samaras. "This is a new step for a new beginning." And Merkel added that the talks had been a "good beginning" – but added that there was "a lot still to do". She called on Greece to fulfil its commitments, saying that "words should be followed by deeds". She met Hollande yesterday to coordinate the German and French positions on Greece, as Samaras seeks an additional two years to implement austerity measures.
Samaras, meanwhile, said that speculation about Greece's future was making meeting the bail-out terms more difficult by putting off potential investors. Earlier Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Merkel's centre-right party, said of Greece's rescue package that "neither the time nor the content can be renegotiated" and that a Greek euro exit "would be no problem". But Samaras warned: "Toxic statements, from wherever they come, can only do damage. Is there any businessman who will make an investment in euros to get it back in drachmas?"
Austerity: the damage is already done
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