Samaras looks for nod from Hollande after Merkel talks

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will be hoping to obtain a third vote of confidence for Greece?s eurozone membership from French President Francois Hollande on Saturday after German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday echoed Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker?s support for Athens, although she stressed that the coalition government would have to follow up its words with actions.

Samaras left Berlin on Friday encouraged by what he heard from Merkel but also fully aware that Germany and other eurozone countries are expecting tangible signs of progress on reforms and fiscal adjustment in Greece.

?I have been informed about exactly what the new Greek government is doing and I have to tell you -- and I mean this -- that I am convinced that the new administration and Mr Samaras will do whatever it can to overcome the problems Greece is facing,? said Merkel after the talks between the two leaders.

Samaras, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and two other aides spent about half an hour with the German chancellor before she held one-on-one talks with the Greek prime minister, which lasted about 40 minutes. Sources said that Samaras set out the government?s plan for cutting spending by 11.5 billion euros over the next two years, privatizations, public administration reform and the negative atmosphere in Greece caused by repeated comments from European politicians about the country?s future.

?How can a government determined to proceed with privatizations do so if a significant European politicians publicly question whether Greece will return to the drachma?? Samaras told journalists. ?This cacophony creates problems? that is why I requested, and Mrs Merkel suggested herself, that this must stop.?

The German chancellor said she would not take any decisions on whether the next bailout tranche of 31 billion euros should be released or if there should be changes to the Greek program until the troika delivers its report on Greece in the latter half of September. However, Merkel also gave a strong indication that she does not want to consider exit plans either.

?I would like Greece to remain in the euro despite the problems that exist,? she said. ?We recognize that the euro is more than just a currency. It is an idea. An idea that has to do with a unified Europe.?

Merkel also acknowledged that Greeks and Germans had grown frustrated with each other. She said people in the two countries were viewing two different realities and that there was a need to merge these into one.