France - Greece - European Union

Greece's Samaras hopes for French backing after Hollande-Merkel meeting

Reuters/Thomas Peter

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and French President François Hollande on Saturday, reportedly to ask for more time to put through an EU-imposed package to keep his country in the eurozone.

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Hollande and Merkel struck a tough stance at their meeting on Thursday evening, both declaring that no decision could be taken before a report by experts from the “Troika” – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – due next month.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

But he may receive a warmer reception in Paris than he does in Berlin.

With an election looming next year and much criticism of Greece in the German press, Merkel told reporters, “It is important for me that we all stick to our commitments ... but I will encourage Greece to continue along its path of reforms."

Hollande, for his part, stressed that he wants to keep the eurozone together, while adding, "It's up to the Greeks to make the necessary efforts so that we can achieve this goal."

Greece, which is in its fifth year of recession, hopes to receive a further tranche of European aid but needs the nod from the experts who must judge whether has made the cuts and privatisations promised when it signed on to the plan.

Its GDP is estimated to have declined by much more than the forecast figure - seven per cent compared to 4.5 per cent – so Samaras’s expected request for two more years could be accepted according to the terms of the deal.

But, although Samaras has promised that it should not mean Europe losing money, the UK-based Financial Times calculates it would cost 20 billion euros, as well as meaning that the repayment of debts would be delayed.

The leader of the ruling German coalition’s parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, on Fiday declared that there must be no change either in the calendar or in the content of the Greek package and the Financial Times Deutschland reported that Schaueble’s ministry has set up a crisis cell to examine the possible effects of Greece leaving the eurozone, including “how to avod a domino effect”.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti is to meet Hollande in Rome on 4 September, the Italian government announced Friday.

He will meet Merkel in Berlin on 29 August.

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