NEWS

Options remain open ahead of crucial summit

Prime Minister George Papandreou was gearing up on Wednesday for potentially the most significant day both in his premiership and Greece?s recent history by holding talks in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and discussing with other eurozone leaders the potential solutions to the debt crisis.

Papandreou arrived in the Belgian capital a day ahead of the meeting between eurozone leaders in a bid to create extra momentum for a comprehensive solution and to ensure that Greece?s best interests would be served. The content of his meeting with Barroso remained private but three key methods for tackling the single currency?s debt crisis remained open: the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) financing the buyback of Greek bonds, a bank levy to raise money for loans to Greece, and a rollover of Greek debt by private investors.

?The summit will determine the future of the country and of Europe,? said Greek government spokesman Ilias Mossialos.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who met in Berlin, did not give any hints of what type of solution is likely to be agreed but German government spokesman Steffen Seibert indicated that the two sides were close to an agreement. ?We are very confident that we can reach a solution that is good and takes us further,? he said.

Papandreou is due to meet Merkel at noon on Thursday, an hour ahead of the eurozone leaders? talks. Sources said that the German chancellor will brief the prime minister on what has been agreed between Berlin and Paris, so Papandreou will go into the talks between the 17 leaders fully aware of what kind of deal can be achieved and what options will be off the table.

Apart from meeting with Barroso, Papandreou also spoke on the phone on Wednesday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Portuguese leader Pedro Passos Coelho and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Greece hopes that these countries, two of which have received bailouts while the other two are facing escalating borrowing costs, will back an agreement that will deal with Greece?s debt problem comprehensively.

Back in Athens, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras issued a statement urging eurozone leaders to display ?solidarity? and ?decisiveness? to find a complete solution for the debt crisis, which, he emphasized, is spreading. Samaras reiterated his opposition to any agreement involving private creditors or one that might lead to credit rating agencies deeming Greece to be in ?selective default.?

Samaras said he was in favor of the issuing of Eurobonds and a deal that would promote growth. ?Greece is not asking for preferential treatment,? he said. ?It is asking for the opportunity to restart its economy.?