Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece will meet with eurozone policymakers next week as he hopes to achieve two objectives: to assure them that he will carry out mandated austerity measures and to win more time to do so.
Reuters reported Wednesday that although specific dates have not yet been announced, Samaras, who was sidelined after eye surgery that kept him from traveling to a eurozone summit meeting in June, intends to meet with eurozone head Jean-Claude Juncker first. From there he intends to go to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and then to Paris to confer with President Francois Hollande of France.
Greece is behind on its targets to cut its budget and to implement new changes designed to bring its debt under control. Its people are already tired of the cuts in salaries, pensions and jobs that have been pushed through but Samaras is working to steel them for more such measures, and was reported on Monday to have told them, “We’re all having a difficult time. There will be more hardship.”
As a condition of its latest bailout package, Greece was ordered to put in place an austerity package of 11.5 billion euros ($14.2 billion) on top of cuts it has already made. Its failure to do so has resulted in calls by a number of German politicians for it to leave the eurozone.
An unidentified Greek government source said that the purpose of Samaras’ trip is to convince eurozone officials that the country can carry out the mandate so that it can continue to receive funds from its second 130 billion-euro bailout. The official was quoted saying, “Our key priority is to regain our credibility by showing our determination.”
Samaras does not intend simply to promise cuts, however. He also hopes to win approval for the cuts to be put in place over four years instead of two. Greece is already mired in a recession longer and deeper than any since World War II.
While the proposal has not officially been made, Samaras campaigned on it in the second election in the spring—and he intends to propose it, according to the official, in discussions during next week’s meetings. He had not done so earlier because of Greece’s repeated failures to achieve its targets, and hopes to convince policymakers that Athens is serious about meeting its objectives even as he asks for more time to do so.
The official was quoted saying, “The matter of extension is already being debated in Greece and abroad. Its official submission is a different matter.”