Merkel refers Samaras to troika over new measures

By Nikos Chrysoloras

Brussels - Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held brief talks on the sidelines of the European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels on Thursday but, according to sources, the Greek leader’s attempts to discuss the details of his country’s fiscal consolidation program received short shrift.

Kathimerini understands that the meeting between Merkel and Samaras lasted for less than 15 minutes and that the German leader said she was not in a position to make any comment on whether Greece would have to adopt more austerity measures next year. Non-Greek sources said that Merkel informed Samaras that this was an issue he would have to take up with Greece’s troika of lenders, rather than her.

Greek sources did not comment on the content of the leaders’ chat and stressed the fact that talks regarding the formation of a government in Germany meant that no conclusions could be drawn at this stage. They also said that Samaras might visit Berlin once a German coalition deal has been agreed.

However, the mood of Merkel’s meeting with Samaras seems to be in contrast with the talks the chancellor held with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. Sources said that Merkel congratulated Anastasiades for the implementation of Cyprus’s adjustment program and suggested that Nicosia could be in line for “further assistance.”

Samaras had earlier attended the meeting of the European People’s Party, the conservative grouping in the European Parliament. There, he held brief talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. However, the event was more notable from a Greek point of view due to Samaras unusually being joined by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who is a technocrat rather than party official. The latter’s attendance could be linked to the fact that a new Commission will be appointed next year and Stournaras may be seen as a suitable candidate for one of the positions.

On his return to Athens, the finance minister will have to prepare for the troika’s return. The visiting officials are expected back in Athens on November 4 and Greece has so far only completed one of the four prior actions needed to secure its next tranche of bailout funding, worth 1 billion euros.

The government has so far only managed to change the code for lawyers, leaving the first phase of the civil service mobility scheme, the payment of state debts to the Athens and Thessaloniki water companies and plans for the future of mining firm Larco, Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS) and the Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELVO) yet to be completed.