Greek PM reaches out to foreign officials ahead of crucial EU summit, troika talks

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been engaged in a flurry of diplomacy, Kathimerini understands, ahead of a crucial European Union leaders summit in Brussels Saturday as well as next week’s talks in Paris between Greek government officials and troika representatives.

Samaras met with European Central Bank managing board member Benoit Coeure Thursday, following talks earlier in the week with Pierre Moscovici, France’s former finance minister and soon-to-be European commissioner, and with Manfred Weber, the German MEP who heads the conservative European People’s Party. The premier also spoke with senior officials in other European capitals, according to sources.

Greek interest is focused on the candidates who will take up key posts in Brussels, replacing European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Samaras is expected to seek an opportunity at the summit to meet with incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as well as other European leaders to emphasize Greece’s progress in reforms ahead of next week’s talks in Paris.

The question of commissioner portfolios will be discussed too, with sources suggesting that Greece’s candidate, Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, will likely get the post dealing with immigration.

Samaras has asked Greek diplomats to emphasize the country’s success in enforcing most reforms demanded by the troika and in posting a primary surplus in a bid to avert further austerity and allow the economy to grow. “In Paris, we will demonstrate the progress that has been achieved and the reasons why no one has the right to hold a knife to our neck anymore,” a close aide to the premier said Thursday.

In a related development yesterday, a spokesman for the IMF, Gerry Rice, told reporters in Washington that Poul Thomsen would not attend the Paris talks and that the Fund’s new envoy for the next review, to begin at the end of September, would be Richi Goyal.