In Berlin, Samaras to highlight progress, warn against more austerity

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday and is expected to underline Greece’s progress in implementing economic reforms while also stressing his government’s inability to impose further painful austerity measures in an increasingly tense political climate.

Merkel sought to emphasize her support for Greece’s efforts on Thursday, as the government submitted a budget for next year foreseeing a slow return to growth, remarking that Greece has achieved “very noteworthy reforms.”

According to sources, officials at the Maximos Mansion were buoyed by Merkel’s encouraging words ahead of Samaras’s visit. They were irked, however, by comments in a very different tone by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup, which appeared in Ta Nea daily. Dijsselbloem was quoted as urging Greece to reach an agreement with the troika soon, on the size of a fiscal gap for next year and on measures Athens must enforce to clinch further rescue funding, as “many eurozone finance ministers have started to lose patience.”

Samaras is also expected to use his talks with Merkel as an opportunity to gain insight into the intentions of officials in Berlin, where a new government has yet to be formed following inconclusive elections in September, as regards the prospects for a lightening of Greece’s huge debt burden.

Before leaving for Berlin on Thursday, Samaras held talks in Athens with US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who expressed Washington’s support for Greece’s ongoing reform effort and said she saw “many opportunities” for closer bilateral business cooperation. Pritzer called on Samaras’s government to “improve its business environment by continuing to increase transparency in public procurements.”

“Such steps will make it easier for companies to compete in public tenders and thus provide the most cost-effective goods and services in important sectors like energy and health care,” she said.

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