NEWS

PM upbeat after meeting with EU Parliament president

“Greece is coming out of an unprecedented crisis despite very difficult social hardships,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in Brussels on Tuesday, following a meeting with the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

In a brief statement to the press following the meeting, Samaras said that the pair had agreed on “growth-enhancement policies and job creation as our top priorities, along with further integration steps.”

The Greek prime minister also said that several issues were discussed in relation to the country’s assumption of the European Union’s rotating presidency in January, among which were immigration and the formation of an “all-encompassing European maritime policy.”

Speaking before Samaras, Schulz expressed the support of the European Parliament for Greece and for the government of Antonis Samaras in particular, saying that “there is light at the end of the tunnel” for the crisis-hit nation.

“I think we should give the country a chance to show that the efforts are really there and further decisions should be taken in the light of the real economic development and of the possible recovery of the country,” Schulz said.

He added that there are good signs that Greece will be able to achieve a primary surplus by the end of the year as the government has predicted.

Last week, the Finance Ministry announced that the central government had a primary budget surplus of 2.92 billion euros between January and August, compared with an interim target for a deficit of 2.5 billion euros in the period.

Reaching a primary surplus this year is the main goal of the debt-laden country’s government. Hitting that target would trigger a clause in its international bailout allowing Athens to seek additional debt relief from its lenders.

Speaking at a discussion titled “Democracy Under Pressure” hosted by Kathimerini and the International Herald Tribune in the Stoa of Attalos in Athens’s Ancient Agora on Monday evening, Samaras set a time frame of six years for Greece’s economic recovery. He said that by 2019, gross domestic product and prosperity will have returned to pre-crisis levels.

While in Brussels, Samaras will also be holding meetings with the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. [Combined reports]