Thursday 21 November 2019

Merkel refuses to give Greece extra time for loan payments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attend a welcome
ceremony before talks in Berlin yesterday. TOBIAS SCHWARZ
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attend a welcome ceremony before talks in Berlin yesterday. TOBIAS SCHWARZ

Stephen Brown and Annika Breidthardt

ANGELA Merkel reassured Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras yesterday that she wanted his country to stay in the eurozone, but declined to support a Greek plea for more time to implement austerity measures and pay back eurozone loans.

Mr Samaras, who made clear he was asking Berlin and Paris for more "air" to implement the reforms rather than going cap-in-hand for more cash, promised to get results and to narrow Greece's "fiscal deficit and the deficit in confidence".

"We're not asking for more money. We're asking for breaths of air in this dive we are taking," Mr Samaras told a joint news conference with Ms Merkel.

But the most he got from the German chancellor was a promise "that we will not make premature judgments but will await reliable evidence", by which she meant the troika report by Greece's international creditors due this autumn.

Mr Samaras is likely to get much the same response from French President Francois Hollande in Paris today.

Ms Merkel stuck doggedly yesterday to her policy of deferring to the troika report from the EC, ECB and IMF, though she did say that she and Mr Hollande wanted Greece to stay in the single currency.

"Greece is part of the eurozone and I want Greece to remain part of the eurozone," Ms Merkel said.

European shares and the euro weakened on Ms Merkel's cautious response to Mr Samaras and fading hopes of ECB action to prop up the bonds of struggling eurozone countries.

In a chilly welcome for Mr Samaras in Berlin, Ms Merkel's parliamentary leader Volker Kauder said "neither the time nor the content can be renegotiated" and a Greek exit "would be no problem for the euro".

Irish Independent

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