NEWS

Sarkozy offers little encouragement for Papandreou

As an opinion poll on Thursday suggested that Greeks are overwhelmingly pessimistic about their prospects, Prime Minister George Papandreou had little reason to be more cheerful after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy proved inconclusive with regard to Athens?s request for better loan terms.

The two men met in Paris 24 hours ahead of a meeting of eurozone leaders in Brussels, where French and German proposals for increasing competitiveness in Europe are due to top the agenda.

Sarkozy, who has been a strong supporter of Papandreou and Greece since the country was enveloped by the debt crisis, was extremely reserved yesterday, sources said. It appears that the Greek prime minister was only able to come away from the meeting with backing for a proposal to extend the period that Greece has to repay its 110 billion euros, which currently stands at three years, and lukewarm support for the idea of reducing the loan?s interest rate, which is roughly 5 percent.

Papandreou was given no guarantees about Greece?s request that any future permanent EU bailout fund have the ability to buy back sovereign debt. ?Tough negotiations will continue. Nothing has been decided,? said Papandreou.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll carried out on behalf of Kathimerini and Skai TV and Radio suggested that support for the ruling PASOK party has declined substantially over the last month. The Public Issue survey indicated that backing for the Socialists stands at 35 percent, compared to 38 last month. Support for New Democracy has also dropped by 2 percent to 28.5. The Communist Party saw its support edge up from 10.5 percent to 11, while the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) experienced a jump from 6 percent to 9.

Backing for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was also up from 4.5 percent to 5. No other parties garnered enough to pass the 3 percent threshold to gain seats in Parliament. The current set of poll ratings would result in a hung parliament if replicated at general elections.

The same survey also indicated that Greeks are growing increasingly pessimistic about their own and the country?s prospects. Almost nine in 10 said they do not feel confident about the future and 78 percent said they believe the country is going in the wrong direction, which is 10 percent up from last month. Also, 73 percent believe that Greece?s economic situation will worsen over the next 12 months.