Even as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece prepared to launch his “charm offensive” against eurozone leaders to plead for more time for his country to meet goals set for its rescue, Germany and France were discussing a united front against allowing any more leeway in the rescue calendar.
Reuters reported Thursday that, despite Samaras’ attempt to win additional time for Greece to comply with conditions set by eurozone officials, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Francois Hollande of France were discussing ways to send a firm message to Athens that it must adhere to its original conditions.
Of course those talks between Merkel and Hollande are complicated by the fact that the French president has been pressing Merkel and other austerity adherents in the eurozone to turn their focus toward growth instead as a means of combating the crisis. And the two do not enjoy the rapport Merkel had with Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande was elected on a platform of advocating growth, while Merkel is being held to a firm position by party members at home who insist that no quarter should be given to a country they see as shirking its duty.
Still, Samaras is determined, too. In an interview that appeared in Germany’s Bild newspaper hours before the Greek prime minister met with eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker in Athens on Wednesday, Samaras said that if the eurozone gives Greece extra time to meet its obligations, that does not automatically translate into more money as well.
“All we want is a bit of ‘air to breathe’ to get the economy running and to increase state income. More time does not automatically mean more money,” Samaras was quoted saying. He added, “Let me be very explicit: we demand no additional money. We stand by our commitments and by fulfilling all our requirements. We have to crank up growth because that decreases the financial gaps.”
The hardliners in the eurozone are not receptive to Samaras’ pleas. The Dutch finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager, was quoted saying in response to Samaras, “If it concerns delaying reforms and budget cuts, then it is not a good idea.”