At a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — dubbed the most powerful woman in the world for a second year in a row by Forbes – Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras asked for “breathing space” for his country to meet the terms of its debt package.
While saying that it was her wish for Greece to remain in the euro zone and “that’s what [she's] working for],” and indeed greeted the Greek prime minister “warmly” according to one report, Merkel insisted that it is up to the people of Greece to implement austerity measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last summer in Brussel, in order for Greece to receive the next 33.5 billion euro installment of a 130 billion euro debt package.
Merkel said that she would not make “premature judgments” and would wait to hear the results of a report to be issued next month by the troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission.
On Thursday, Merkel had met with French President Francois Hollande; both had stated that Greece must continue to implement stringent reforms.
Data has shown that Germany’s economy is starting to show the effects of the European debt crisis, with reports showing that German output had declined 0.5 percent in the third quarter. The euro zone now seems to be headed for a double-dip recession.
For a little historical perspective about Samaras’ visit to Germany to request (beg) for “breathing space,” in the months before he became Greek prime minister, Samaras was stoutly opposed to the terms of the second bailout. His response to such criticisms has been that “nobody is without sin and it is important to ‘focus on today so we can have a better tomorrow,’” rather than dwelling on the past.
In an effort to finalize a package of 11.5 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in spending cuts, Greece has announced that it may try to sell some of its uninhabited islands as part of its privatization drive (the country is also seeking to sell off some utilities and is meeting opposition from unions). Samaras said that islands might be sold “on condition that it doesn’t pose a national security problem.” He insisted that “it would not be a case of getting rid of the isles, but of transforming unused terrain into capital that can generate revenue, for a fair price.”
Germany had actually made such a suggestion about Greece puttings islands on the market in 2010.
(No word on whether such was discussed on Friday in Berlin.)
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Photo by Mike Knapek