During lightning visit to Vienna, PM strikes positive tone

Despite the political upheaval at home, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought to convey a positive message during a lightning visit on Thursday to Vienna, where he reportedly met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a summit of the center-right European People’s Party.

“Greece has covered a lot of ground, making progress every day,” Samaras told reporters on arriving at the summit, adding that the country was going through a “difficult period, which demands fiscal stability and reforms as well as strong and broad social and political consensus.”

During a break from the summit proceedings, Samaras is said to have met with Merkel, who reportedly encouraged him to continue with economic reforms agreed with the country’s foreign creditors – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In a related development, a senior IMF official rebuffed reports that the controversial decision by Greece’s conservative-led government to close state broadcaster ERT last week had been recommended by the Fund.

“The recent decisions regarding the state broadcaster have been the government’s,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. “The authorities’ economic program is supported by IMF lending and that includes a reform of public administration… but does not make specific recommendations on decisions involving state companies,” he added.

European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn made a similar statement last week, saying that the EC had not influenced the ERT decision.