Samaras holds ‘fruitful’ talks with Lagarde, warns Europe not to delay debt decision

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the European nations that are financing Greece’s bailout should not wait too long before helping the country address its debt burden.

Citing a pledge made in November by euro-area nations to consider further assistance to lower Greece’s debt, Samaras said his country is on track to meet the main condition, an annual budget surplus before interest payments, or primary surplus.

“If Greece indeed does manage to have primary surplus, then the European Union should help and will help Greece,” Samaras said yesterday at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “What is important to me is not to procrastinate too much for a solution.”

Greece is in the sixth year of a recession deepened by spending cuts and tax increases linked to a 240 billion-euro ($325 billion) bailout from the euro area and the International Monetary Fund, which now hold most of Greece’s debt after investors took part in the biggest debt restructuring in history last year.

The Washington-based IMF staff has said Europe’s commitment to provide further debt relief may require agreeing to measures as early as 2014-2015.

“As to how we’re going to lower the debt, that’s another issue,” Samaras said yesterday when asked if that would come in the form of longer maturities and lower interest rates, or of a write down.

Samaras met earlier in the day with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, calling the discussion “fruitful.” He also met with the financial community, touting his country’s fiscal progress which he said will lure investors and boost exports.

“We are not there yet, but the ship is turning around,” he said.

“Prime Minister Samaras and I had a productive discussion this afternoon on recent economic developments and challenges facing Greece,” said Lagarde in a statement after the meeting.

“I commended him on the progress that Greece has made under its economic program towards fiscal sustainability, restoring competitiveness and financial stability, and stressed the importance of moving forward on institutional and structural reforms and implementing a robust 2014 budget to achieve the program’s objectives.

“I assured him that the IMF remains committed to helping Greece in this endeavor.”

[Bloomberg & Kathimerini]

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