Samaras gears up for crucial two weeks of meetings, decisions

Antonis Samaras enters a crucial two weeks of his premiership as he prepares for meetings with top European leaders and continues discussions with his coalition colleagues about finalizing the 11.5 billion euros in spending cuts the troika has demanded from Athens.

Samaras is due to meet Eurogroup chief and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker in Athens on August 22 before talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on August 24 and French President Francois Hollande the following day.

The meetings will provide Samaras with opportunities to explain his government?s strategy and to sound out his eurozone counterparts on the possibility of Greece?s fiscal adjustment period being extended by two years.

Samaras could be in a position to present to Juncker, Merkel and Hollande the details of the savings Greece plans to make over the next couple of years. Kathimerini understands that Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis will have the final list of the cuts to be made, pending their approval, around August 20.

Merkel ends her summer vacation to oversee a Cabinet meeting Aug. 15 before departing for a two-day trip to Canada for talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the spiraling crisis threatens the global economy.

With the region?s leaders awaiting a German high court decision on bailout funding next month, they?re struggling to smooth divisions over a European Central Bank plan to buy the bonds of indebted nations.

?It makes no sense for the ECB to start financing? Spain and Italy, ECB Governing Council member Luc Coene said in an interview with newspapers De Tijd and L?Echo published on Aug. 11. ?It would only lead to the ECB taking on the whole public debt of Spain and Italy onto its balance sheet.?

ECB President Mario Draghi suggested earlier this month the central bank could purchase sovereign debt alongside euro-area bailout funds. While the plan offered Europe an initial respite from the turmoil, Spanish and Italian yields climbed last week on concern that a debt-purchasing program won?t be sufficient to curb the crisis.

The ECB said last week that it would undertake bond purchases only if troubled nations promise measures to improve their economic health. Coene, who also heads Belgium?s central bank, told the two Belgian newspapers that ECB officials are divided on what conditions should be agreed.

The monthlong wait for the ESM decision will be paralleled by anticipation on whether Greece continues to receive euro rescue funds. Greece?s troika of international creditors — the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund — will return to Athens in early September to resume talks as Samaras seeks to hammer out 11.5 billion euros in budget cuts for 2013 and 2014.

German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler, who drew international criticism last month for resurrecting the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro, told Focus magazine that such a scenario would be ?manageable,? echoing a statement by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

?Hardly any of our offers have been taken up by the Greeks,? Roesler told Focus Aug. 11, referring to economic support put forward by the German government and industry.

The ECB?s Coene said a Greek exit ?would be the worst solution,? adding in the interview that ?it would raise a question about euro membership for everybody, not only for Greece.?