NEWS

Premier talks tough but EU may offer help

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday committed his government to taking any measures necessary to fix Greece’s public finances, after being buoyed by the support he received from French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a meeting in Paris. As talk grew yesterday of the European Union, or at least some of its members, stepping in to provide Greece with some form of assistance in its efforts to rein in its towering public debt and deficit, Papandreou flew to France for talks with Sarkozy, who has been supportive of Greece on a range of issues in the past. «We are ready to take any measures in order to make this sure and guaranteed that we reach this goal,» he said, speaking from the courtyard of the Elysee Palace. The prime minister said he had discussed an array of issues with Sarkozy, although talks focused mostly on economic matters, and reiterated that he was determined to cut the public deficit to 8.7 percent of GDP in 2010 from 12.7 percent in 2009 and to meet the commitments the government has undertaken in its Stability and Growth Program. «We are absolutely determined to make sure it is implemented in every detail,» he said. Government sources said that Papandreou was very pleased with the backing that he received from Sarkozy, who apparently spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel shortly before meeting with the Greek premier. It is thought this conversation is likely to play a crucial role in whether Greece will receive assistance from the EU’s big players, although Papandreou told journalists that Athens has not requested any help. Sarkozy did not make any immediate public comments after his meeting with Papandreou but French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that he was optimistic that Greece would soon win back the confidence of the markets by getting its finances under control. «This is an issue of concern for all members of the eurozone,» said Fillon, noting that the European Commission had adopted a series of recommendations to put Greece on the path toward healthy public finances. «We have confidence that the Greek authorities will follow these recommendations and quickly win back the confidence of the markets,» he said.