NEWS

PM hopes for EU lifeline

Greece will go into Friday?s European Union leaders? summit in Brussels looking for a unanimous decision on fiscal governance that will not involve a treaty change but also hoping that disagreement will not lead to talks falling apart and the financial rescue package for Athens being put in doubt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are pushing for eurozone countries? stricter budget controls to be enshrined in a rewritten EU treaty in a bid to assuage markets and establish a basis for common economic governance.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy believes that a treaty change, which does not have the support of all the EU members, can be avoided. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos met with Van Rompuy in the Belgian capital on Thursday.

Sources said that Greece backs Van Rompuy?s proposal and that it will be calling for any decision to be adopted unanimously rather than by a majority vote.

Greece is also against the idea put forward by Merkel of a constitutional debt brake, which would involve eurozone countries having to legally bind their governments to maintaining their debt below 60 percent of gross domestic product.

Athens also opposes the involvement of the European Court of Justice in the process of ensuring countries keep to the debt limit and the 3 percent of GDP deficit ceiling.

However, Greece?s greatest concern is that there should be some kind of agreement in Brussels Friday, thereby ensuring Papademos can continue negotiating the country?s next bailout package, which will include a haircut for private bondholders. The prospect of the talks ending without a deal has prompted fear in Athens that its bailout negotiations would collapse and a disorderly bankruptcy and exit from the euro would loom.

A poll by Public Issue for Kathimerini and Skai TV and Radio suggested Thursday that the majority of Greeks still want the country to remain in the euro. Two-thirds of respondents said they had a positive view of the euro and 53 percent felt equally good about the European Union.

There also appears to be little support for a return to the drachma as 69 percent of those questioned said they believe things would be worse if Greece leaves the euro. Only 15 percent said they would improve.