NEWS

PM hopes for positives from eurozone meeting

Prime Minister George Papandreou heads into a meeting of eurozone leaders in Brussels on Friday afternoon aiming to convince his counterparts that Greece should be given improved terms for its 110-billion-euro loan package.

Following talks with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week and a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the month, Papandreou will be hoping that he has done enough to convince Europe?s key players that Greece should have more than three years to repay its loan and at a lower interest rate.

Sarkozy gave only lukewarm support for Greece?s request at a meeting between the two leaders in Paris on Thursday but in an interview with the Bild newspaper, Merkel suggested that it was not realistic to expect the Greek government to put its finances in order in just three years.

Papandreou will also be pushing for a permanent support fund for debt-ridden eurozone countries to be able to buy back government bonds, which would be another route for Greece to lighten its debt load, which is expected to be as high as 160 percent of gross domestic product by 2013.

However, the final details of any permanent support structure, to be known at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), will not be finalized until a European Union leaders? summit on March 24-25.

The main focus of this Friday?s meeting, however, will be on the proposals put forward last month by France and Germany to improve Europe?s competitiveness.

A draft communiqu?© seen by the BBC includes proposals for lower labour taxes, a common corporate tax base and indexing retirement age to life expectancy.

“Competitiveness is essential to help the EU grow faster and more sustainably in the medium and long term, to produce higher levels of income for citizens, and to preserve our social models,» said the draft document according to the BBC.