The Greek government on Friday emerged satisfied from a European Union leaders’ summit, hopeful of getting its next bailout tranche by mid-November, but Prime Minister Antonis Samaras avoided any talk of steps to make Greece’s debt sustainable in the coming months.
Samaras appeared encouraged by the discussions he had with his EU counterparts in Brussels. “I had the chance to talk about Greece and everybody recognized that there has been great progress,” he said. “I stressed that as soon as there is a positive report from the troika, the installment must be disbursed immediately. The economy’s lifeblood is at zero and unemployment is nightmarish; this is not Europe.”
In a statement, eurozone leaders acknowledged that Greece was trying to get its consolidation program back on track. “We welcome the determination of the Greek government to deliver on its commitments and we commend the remarkable efforts by the Greek people,” they said.
The statement, however, provided qualified support for Greece’s continued euro membership, saying that continued “budgetary and structural policy reforms” were needed to “bring about a more competitive private sector, private investment and an effective public sector.”
“These conditions will allow Greece to achieve renewed growth and will ensure its future in the euro area,” the eurozone leaders said. French President Francois Hollande also refrained from giving total backing to Greece, telling journalists that its euro future was “not assured” yet.
Samaras revealed that he had extended an invitation to Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to visit Athens soon.
The Greek premier refused to be drawn on the issue of a restructuring of Greece’s official sector debt in order to make it sustainable and keep the International Monetary Fund involved in the bailout. “I prefer to be defensive on this issue,” he said in reference to the debate between the EU and IMF about debt sustainability. “Let them sort out their differences,” added the premier.
Samaras, however, took the unusual step of praising his coalition partners, Evangelos Venizelos of PASOK and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left, saying that the three were “united like a fist.” An opinion poll by Rass for Saturday’s Paropolitika showed all three coalition parties trailing SYRIZA, which garnered 23.8 percent, compared to 22.7 for New Democracy. Golden Dawn was third on 9.2, followed by PASOK on 7.2 percent. Democratic Left had 5 percent.