Greek government pins debt relief hopes on Obama visit


The expected visit next month to Athens by US President Barack Obama to discuss the refugee crisis, the global terror threat and the instability created by military conflicts, will carry added significance, as it will coincide with Greece’s increasingly louder appeals for debt relief and the fierce negotiations with its international creditors over its bailout program.

The SYRIZA-led coalition, which sees Obama’s visit as a confirmation of Greece’s role as a bastion of stability in a volatile region, is banking on his support in its bid to convince creditors of the need to restructure the country’s debt.

Statements emanating from Washington, with regard to this and the need for growth policies to replace austerity, have galvanized the leftist government, which has been turning its gaze stateside for support.

And regardless of what happens until the US president’s arrival in Greece, his visit – which has yet to be officially confirmed – is seen as an important signal of support that will send a powerful message about the prospects of the Greek economy to international investors.

Moreover, if there is no agreement in place over a framework that will lead to a restructuring of the country’s debt, Athens expects not just a public statement of support, but for Obama to exercise his influence on European leaders to get debt restructuring talks off the ground.

Greece’s demand for debt relief will top the agenda of Wednesday's cabinet meeting ahead of the European Summit Thursday and the day after. On the sidelines of the summit, Tsipras will meet with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, and is expected to reiterate Greek demands for debt restructuring, linking it to the wider issue of European stability.

Up until late Tuesday, the government had not officially announced the US president’s visit, as aides said they were waiting for the White House to finalize the European leg of Obama’s tour.

According to reports, Obama’s visit, which will primarily focus on the refugee crisis, will possibly include a stop at Lesvos or a trip to the US military base of Souda on Crete.

In comments Tuesday regarding the refugee crisis after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House, Obama said that Italy, Greece and Germany should not shoulder a larger burden than their European neighbors, adding that it was a “strategic interest of the US to make sure that the migration crisis that’s been taking place in Europe is solved.”