Greece seeks Juncker nod

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is hoping that Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker will give Greece and its continued euro membership his strong backing following talks in Athens between the two men on Wednesday, when the Greek premier will set out the measures his government plans to take as well as the problems it faces.

Samaras?s talks with the Luxembourg prime minister are the first of three key meetings he will hold this week. Arguably, the ones with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday and French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Saturday may prove more decisive, but sources said Samaras is hoping that unequivocal support from Juncker will set a positive tone for the week.

Juncker has hit out recently at speculation about Greece having to leave the euro and the Greek government hopes Wednesday?s meeting will be a chance to convince the man who heads the meeting of eurozone finance ministers that Athens is committed to the terms of its EU-IMF bailout. Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will brief Juncker on the steps they will take to save 11.5 billion euros over the next year as well as the other measures being adopted.

However, they will also use the opportunity to drive home the message about the dire state of the Greek economy and the need for two extra years to complete the fiscal adjustment in order to create better conditions for recovery. It is not clear if Samaras, who on Tuesday ordered a freeze on public funding for nongovernmental organizations, will discuss how the funding gap of about 20 billion euros could be bridged if two extra years are granted to Greece.

Juncker, who will also have dinner with Samaras at the Acropolis Museum, declined a request from opposition party SYRIZA to meet with its leader, Alexis Tsipras. The leftists had sent a request to the Luxembourg Embassy in Athens last week but were told Juncker would not have time for the meeting. Party sources blamed the government and the troika for the talks not being held. Tsipras had turned down an invitation to meet with troika representatives in July.

As Samaras meets with Juncker, one of the coalition partners, Democratic Left, will hold a meeting of its parliamentary group. One of the topics to be discussed is the proposal for a new labor pool scheme to reduce the number of civil servants. MP Dimitris Chatzisokratis was the latest of the party?s lawmakers to express his opposition to the measure on Wednesday.

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