NEWS

Greece argues its case at EU summit

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was hoping to emerge from Monday’s European Union leaders? summit in Brussels with support for Greece over a timeline for concluding debt restructuring talks and agreeing a new bailout with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, but as talks dragged on into the night, it remained unclear whether he would achieve his goal.

Papademos had been due to brief his counterparts on the measures Greece is preparing to adopt, amid growing skepticism about the pace of the Greek reform program. The Greek premier met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn on Sunday to brief them about developments in Athens.

Following the conlcusion of the summit, Papademos went into a seperate meeting with European Council President Hermann Van Rompuy, Luxembourg Prime Minister and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank executive board member Joerg Asmussen.

Although the focus of the summit was growth and job creation, the Greek issue was the elephant in the room. Of particular interest were the German proposals leaked late on Friday regarding the appointment of a European commissioner to oversee fiscal policy in Greece, with the power to intervene in the country?s budget. The German document, apparently produced by the Finance Ministry, also suggested Greece should first pay its debt before committing any money to public spending.

Papademos did not comment on the proposals but other Greek politicians roundly derided them. Athens received backing on the issue from Juncker. ?I am strongly against the idea of imposing a commissioner with that mission only to Greece,? he said. ?That?s not acceptable.?

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann supported this view as well. ?[The German proposal] doesn?t achieve anything and it goes in the wrong direction,? he told reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a conciliatory stance aimed at defusing the tension created by the proposal for a budget commissioner. She said that Europe had to focus on how it could ?help Greece accomplish the tasks given to it.

?But all of this will only work if Greece and other EU member states talk about it,? she said. ?This is why I do not want a controversial debate but a discussion that achieves success.?

However, the idea of Greece giving up fiscal sovereignty did have some supporters at the EU Council. ?Greeks are not delivering on reforms, which is why we are having this discussion [about the German proposals],? said Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt. ?I can understand that.?