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Greek hopes for Commission portfolio raised following Juncker-Samaras meeting

Jean-Claude Juncker, president-elect of the European Commission (left) hugs Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the Maximos Mansion,the official residence of prime minister, in Athens, on Monday.

A particularly warm meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and European Commission President in-waiting Jean-Claude Juncker in Athens on Monday appeared to result in the two men coming to an understanding about what position Greece’s representative at the European Union executive will hold when the commissioners’ portfolios are handed out next month.

Samaras and Juncker had lunch with Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who will be Greece’s representative at the European Commission. Athens has indicated that it would like the New Democracy politician to take up a newly created immigration portfolio. The Greek premier indicated there is a strong chance this could happen.

“Greece’s positions have been included in Juncker’s program and in the strategic priorities for the next five years,” he said, making reference to issues such as employment, growth, immigration, digital economy and energy sufficiency. “I assume that when Mr Juncker takes his decision, he will decide on a portfolio that touches on these interests.”

Juncker insisted that he had not made up his mind yet but hinted that Athens had cause for hope. “I will decide on the portfolios,” he said. “You will not be disappointed.”

The discussion also turned to economic issues and both men made repeated references to Argentina, which went into selective default last week after failing to reach a deal with holdouts who did not take part in its debt restructuring.

“Greece could have been a good example for Argentina to avoid the problems it was not able avoid,” said Juncker. “So Greece is not Argentina.”

Samaras said that Argentina’s predicament was a justification for the Greek government’s strategy. “Greece managed to avoid exactly what Argentina could not,” said Samaras. “This despite the fact that some people were advising us to go for a disorderly bankruptcy,” he added in an apparent reference to opposition party SYRIZA. Over the weekend Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos wrote in an op-ed that Argentina’s fate was proof of the “dangers of unilateral actions,” again in a nod towards SYRIZA’s stance on stopping debt repayments if Greece cannot reach an agreement on restructuring with the eurozone.

Juncker dodged a question on what form further debt relief for Greece might take. “When it comes to Greece, the question you’re mentioning is not part of my meditation.”

His comment came as Reuters reported on Monday that Brussels is thinking of disbanding the troika and replacing it with a European Commission task force that would be responsible for monitoring a six-year plan of reforms that Greece would have to draw up before the end of the year.

ekathimerini.com , Monday August 4, 2014 (20:50)  
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