Eurozone crisis

Hollande and Merkel meet as Greece begs for more time

AFP/ Pool / Francois Nascimbeni

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to chew over their differences on the Greek bailout at a working dinner on Thursday evening. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants more time to balance the books.

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The working dinner comes ahead of Samaras’s meeting with Merkel in Berlin on Friday and Hollande in Paris on Saturday.

He warned of disastrous knock-on effects for all of Europe if Greece quits the euro, in an interview with Le Monde newspaper on Thursday.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

“A Grexit, as they call it, would be devastating for Greece and damaging for Europe,” he told the authoritative French daily. “The social turmoil could become contagious to other European countries.”

The Greek crisis combined with events in the Middle East could become a “geopolitical nightmare”, he claimed.

During the Greek election campaign Samaras promised to fight for a two-year postponement of the obligation to clean up the country’s finances until 2016 and in Le Monde he declared that “economic recovery is necessary for us to meet our targets”.

And he told the German daily Bild that Greece needs “a little breathing space”.

The country, which is in its fifth year of recession, is supposed to make another 11.5 billion-euros-worth of cuts and savings in return for a 31.5 billion-euro aid instalment.

While Hollande has persuaded his European partners to launch some growth-boosting measures and has declared his opposition to an “all-austerity” policy.

But Merkel, who faces an election next year, on a trip to Moldova on Wednesday insisted that “France, Germany and all other countries must fulfil their obligations”.

And her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Shaeuble, told German radio, “More time is not the solution to the problems.”

Merkel and Hollande have both indicated that they will not make any decisions until the presentation of a progress report on Greece due next month. It will be prepared by experts from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The Hollande-Merkel meeting will be preceded by a brief declaration, without giving reporters the chance to put questions, and will not be followed by a press conference.

The Elysée presidential palace on Thursday denied reports that Merkel had insisted on keeping it short despite Hollande’s desire for more time to express his position on Greece, having abstained from comment on the question for some time.

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