NEWS

German envoy backs Greek reform efforts

Government officials continued on Thursday with a charm offensive for visiting foreign dignitaries with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras taking European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to the Acropolis and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos receiving his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said he was visiting to express solidarity with Greece.

In comments to reporters after accompanying Barroso and EU commissioners on a visit to the Acropolis Museum, Samaras said all the visitors were “very impressed.”

Asked what Greece has to gain by hosting the EU presidency, the premier said “words do not count, actions do.” “A strategic exit from the crisis is what counts, and that is what we’re striving for, that’s what we’re doing slowly but surely.”

Later in the day Venizelos welcomed Steinmeier, noting that the German diplomat’s presence in Athens one day after Greece’s official assumption of the European Union’s rotating presidency was “a good omen.”

The German envoy, for his part conveyed the respect of his government “for the first part of the course that Greece has covered” and said he hoped the Greek government would complete that course by the end of its term.

Referring to Greek predictions for a primary surplus, Steinmeier spoke of “indisputable successes” and advised Athens to focus on the completion of economic reforms pledged to international creditors at this stage and “not to devote all their time to discussions about rescue packages.” The latter reference follows widespread speculation about the possible need for a third foreign rescue package for Greece.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has indicated that it is too early to discuss the possibility of a third rescue package.

“Ideally we would like no new loans, but at the end of the day we will compare alternatives and take the decision for the benefit and welfare of the Greek people,” he said earlier this week.

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