NEWS

Samaras pushes for next loan tranche at EU summit but faces tight deadline

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stated the case on Thursday at a European Union leaders? summit for Greece receiving its next bailout tranche in full and as soon as possible, although this leaves his government with a particularly tight schedule over the next few weeks.

Sources said that Samaras stressed to his counterparts in Brussels the need for Greece to receive the 31.5-billion-euro installment soon. He assured fellow leaders that Athens is close to agreeing with the troika the details of the 13.5-billion-euro austerity package for the next two years as well as a series of structural reforms, such as in the labor market.

The government hopes to wrap up talks with the troika at the beginning of next week so that an extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup can be held on October 29, when eurozone finance ministers will examine the measures and the troika?s progress report.

This would have to be followed by the Greek Parliament giving its approval to the austerity package and the 2013 budget. Following this, a regular meeting of the Eurogroup on November 12 would lead to the disbursement of the loan tranche being approved.

Once this has happened, the eurozone can begin to discuss in earnest plans to make Greece?s debt more viable and how to cover any funding gap that might be created by giving Athens until 2016 to meet its fiscal targets, rather than the current deadline of 2014.

?Financing issues will be discussed between the official lenders and Greece,? the troika said on Wednesday after a round of talks in Athens concluded without agreement.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday night that the eurozone was considering a voluntary debt buyback proposal that would allow Greece to retire some of the 63 billion euros of Greek debt held by private investors.

Samaras is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning, as the second day of the summit gets under way in Brussels.

Merkel and Peer Steinbrueck, her Social Democrat challenger in next year?s general election, clashed on the topic of Greece during their first exchange in Parliament yesterday.

Merkel declared her willingness to take a softer line on Greece, noting that she had been convinced by the determination of Samaras to push through reforms. Steinbrueck accused Merkel of wasting time, and German taxpayers? money, before suddenly declaring commitment to keep Greece in the eurozone.

?You should have made this speech three years ago,? he said, referring to the time that Athens sought its first bailout.