German Chancellor pledged that Eurozone would discuss Greece’s debt sustainability later this year – Samaras sees no need for third bailout.
Athens.- Greek coalition government won praise Friday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the lead advocate of eurozone austerity — for its painful economic turnaround and successful return to markets. German Chancellor paid a short visit in Athens to show support for Antonis Samaras and his ND party ahead of a tough election in May. New Democracy is trailing leftist SYRIZA, while is coalition partner is fighting for political survival.
“Greece has honored its pledges,” Merkel said at a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens. “I hope that policy is continued.”
Merkel’s brief visit, her second since Europe’s debt crisis erupted in Greece more than four years ago, came amid Greek government euphoria over the country’s successful re-entry to international bond markets on Thursday. The landmark five-year issue was Greece’s first since 2010, when it was saved from bankruptcy by a massive bailout from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund.
“Greece has made it,” Samaras said, before striking a more sober tone.
“My pace and that of my government will not change. What has changed is the image, the psychology … markets have voted for Greece and given it their confidence.”
About 5,000 police officers were deployed Friday to guard areas on Merkel’s itinerary and enforce a ban across most of central Athens on planned protests. Security was tightened further after a powerful car bomb exploded early Thursday outside the Bank of Greece, causing damage but no injuries. No group claimed responsibility, but police suspect domestic anarchist militants.
About 1,000 people held peaceful demonstrations outside the prohibited area, but dispersed under heavy rain.
“I believe that after all these necessary reforms have been carried out — with more remaining — that Greece will have more opportunities than difficulties,” Merkel said at the start of her visit.
Her talks with Samaras, who is facing opposition party demands for early elections along with next month’s vote for the European Parliament, included a German initiative to support small Greek businesses, as well as future negotiations on Greek national debt relief.
The two leaders also met a group of Greek entrepreneurs who have created Internet startups.
“I don’t know if your friends will talk to you after you tell them that you met the German chancellor,” Merkel joked.
It was decided on Friday that plans to create an investment fund in Greece with German participation would go ahead. The official announcements are expected on May 5 but sources said the two leaders agreed yesterday that the Institution for Growth in Greece (IfG) would initially finance small and medium-sized enterprises. Germany is to invest an initial amount of 100 million euros via its government-owned development bank KfW, which will also have a seat on the IfG’s board. The European Investment Bank and the French government are due to participate in the project too. France is also due to contribute 100 million euros but this has yet to be rubber-stamped due to a cabinet reshuffle in Paris.
Sources said that during a meeting between the two leaders and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos the issue of the loan the Bank of Greece was forced to provide the Nazi regime with during the Second World War was discussed. It was decided that Foreign Minister Venizelos should take the matter up with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Samaras sees no need for third bailout
After a week that saw Athens successfully tap international bond markets for the first time in four years, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras essentially ruled out the need for a third loan program for Greece, insisting that the markets’ positive response to last week bond’s issue is the first step toward the country emerging from its economic crisis.
In an article to be published in Sunday’s Kathimerini, Samaras declared that “the country’s return to the markets rebuffs [speculation] about a third memorandum,” a prospect that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was careful to leave open on a lightning visit to Athens on Friday.
“Two years ago when I was speaking about prospects and hope, the signs were not good. Few believed that we could make it,” Samaras wrote. “Now, everyone can see it: Greece is succeeding, step by step.” The premier said his priorities now were growth-boosting measures and “relief for those who have been hardest hit.”
In his article, Samaras lashed out at critics, particularly leftist SYRIZA and the neofascist Golden Dawn, which he did not name. He said democracy had been challenged by “an irresponsible opposition which tried to rally the people against the country staying in the eurozone” and by a “criminal organization” which used the parliamentary immunity of its MPs to launch “an unprecedented wave of violence.”
Meanwhile, as experts weighed the outcome of the bond issue and Merkel’s visit to Athens, sources suggested that both had been carefully considered. As regards the capital markets foray, sources told Kathimerini that it had been preceded by months of secret meetings with the final decision taken during a meeting at Samaras’s home in Kifissia, north of Athens, on the night of March 24. As for Merkel’s visit to Athens, there are said to have been doubts on both sides about whether it would be beneficial to both leaders with the decision taken at the last minute.
The head of the eurozone group of finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, noted on Saturday that the bond issue inspired optimism but that Greece still had “a long way to go” before it could talk about a full return to the markets.
SYRIZA slams Athens visit by Merkel
The leader of the main opposition party Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and European Left Party candidate for the European Commission presidency Alexis Tsipras said from Paris on Friday, that the German chancellor Angela Merkel has come to realize, the dilemma in the forthcoming European elections is “either Merkel or us.”
Speaking at an event organized by the European Left Party, Tsipras described Merkel’s official visit to Athens on Friday as “electoral opportunism”, adding that Greece borrowed money from the markets “at an expensive rate” on Thursday due to not having restructured its public debt first, so as to cause its borrowing rates to fall, prior to re-emerging in the international markets.
SYRIZA’s leader rejected the vaunted view that international markets showed their renewed trust in the Greek economy by buying into a five-year bond on Thursday, instead claiming they simply “chased and achieved big – and foremost – guaranteed profits.” Tsipras expects the Greek people in the European elections to voice their response in a mature, responsible and dignified way “sending opportunists home.”
In a broader EU perspective, Tsipras noted that the European elections will affect the course of the whole of Europe, stressing that it is vital to halt neoliberalism and “German Europe.” He also emphasized the need to vote down the far right in France, noting that “voting for Marine Le Pen does not constitute an anti-systemic choice.” In his view, the wide support Le Pen enjoys by the media establishment cannot be considered “neither random, nor coincidental”, as it’s “a deliberate political act, in order to reinforce the far right against the Left.”
Tsipras emphasized, that through his candidacy, the European Left Party aims to put an end to austerity measures “in order to win back Democracy”, to stop the social processes which revive nationalistic trends and xenophobia, right populism and extremism, to reunite people and countries which neoliberalism acts to divide, to promote the solidarity of young women and men, workers, pensioners and unemployed in a Europe against the hegemony of capital, which is the only solidarity powerful enough to halt the north-south divide.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, in response to a Press release from main opposition Radical Left Coalition SYRIZA party commenting on the visit on Friday of the German chancellor Angela Merkel and her meeting with Samaras, said:
“[SYRIZA] Doesn’t have propositions. It doesn’t have a political platform. In a short while, it won’t even have a memorandum [the official accord governing the tripartite bailout]. Which is why SYRIZA is sinking ever more into the delirium of its misery…”.