It didn’t go so well for Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras on his visits with European Union leaders in Berlin. His plea for more time to come up with cuts to the Greek budget is being met with stony nonchalance from both German chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured above right, with Samaras) and French president François Hollande, to say nothing of German civil society.
Samaras has requested an additional two years to come up with an additional €11.5 billion in cuts to the Greek budget. While Merkel — and especially Hollande — were sympathetic to Samaras’s plea and reiterated their support for Greece to remain in the eurozone, Samaras will return to Athens having won no concessions from Berlin or Paris.
Business daily Handelsblatt writes:
“Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras does not tire of making new demands. Now he wants more time, for the health of his economy. Not more money, only more time — at least according to his requests to Berlin and Brussels. And, in Berlin and Brussels, there will be much discussion about whether Greece should be granted more time.”
“Our instinctive reaction regarding Samaras’ request is, well, that could be something. Given the near 40 degree Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures that Germany experienced last weekend, we can empathize with Greek lethargy.”
“But is the Greek prime minister right? Is time instead of money really better? I say no.”
“We have known for a long time that time is money. Perhaps Angela Merkel will also say that to the Greeks. Despite the hot and sweaty 40-degree temperatures, there will be no more days off.”
Athens News reports that Merkel’s comments at a joint press conference with Samaras Friday were particularly tense:
“We expect Greece to deliver all that has been promised,” Merkel declared. In remarks that were unusually sharp for a joint news conference, she stressed that Berlin has heard words in the past but now expects deeds.
The tough talk contrasted sharply with the head of state honours and diplomatic smiles with which Samaras was received on his first official visit, complete with red carpet and band.
Merkel said that Samaras’ visit is a sign of the “very close ties” between the two countries, only to add later that each side had lost credibility in the eyes of the other and that trust must be regained.
And these are demands from someone who ‘Europe’ was desperate to win June’s Greek parliamentary elections.
Can you imagine how horrific the reaction would have been if the request had come from Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left — Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς)?
Merkel spent Sunday trying to calm the waters against anti-Greek feeling in Germany, after German Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann attacked the European Central Bank’s buying of state debt, and Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the governing Christlich-Soziale Union (Christian Social Union), the Bavarian conservative party and sister party of Merkel’s own Christlich Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union), speculated that Greece would leave the single currency by next year.