NEWS

PM heads for talks with Merkel in Germany

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to fly to Germany on Monday ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, as part of series of meetings with his European counterparts.

Merkel will be the first leader that Papandreou meets ahead of a meeting of eurozone chiefs on March 11 and an EU leaders? summit on March 24 and 25.

It is thought that Papandreou will urge Merkel to agree to the repayment period for Greece?s 110-billion-euro emergency loan being extended and its interest rate being reduced.

The Greek premier is hoping that the German chancellor will agree to these changes not being dependent on Athens adopting the ?competitiveness pact? that she presented earlier this month with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which calls for tighter wage controls and retirement ages to be linked to life expectancy.

The meeting will also be an opportunity to patch up the rocky relations between the two countries over the last few months. In November, Papandreou criticized Merkel?s public suggestions that private investors be asked to accept a reduced profit, or ?haircut? on government bonds, as part of a permanent support mechanism for eurozone members.

The Greek prime minister said that Merkel?s comments were driving up bond spreads for countries with weaker economies. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis was forced to insist that there was no ?Greek-German war? after the row between the two leaders.

“Greece’s economic situation, as well as the important measures that are being taken by the country in the framework of the restructuring of its public finances, will be discussed,» German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in reference to Tuesday?s meeting.

Papandreou will also meet German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel, the president of SPD’s parliamentary group and former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Green party co-president Claudia Roth.

On Wednesday, Papandreou will fly to Helsinki for talks with Finland?s Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi.