Merkel to visit Greece this WEEK
By Honor Mahony
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Greece on Tuesday (9 October) to meet Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in her first visit to the debt-ridden country since the eurozone crisis began.
Announcing the visit, her spokesperson said that Samaras government has "increased reform efforts" and that Germany wants to show support.
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But the visit comes as Greece's eurozone future remains uncertain.
The government is having trouble finding the billions of euros needed to make the further saving cuts demanded by creditors and Greeks themselves are tired of living through tax hikes and social spending cuts.
Germany, as the eurozone's biggest lender, has been at the forefront of those saying that Athens needs to do more, prompting charges from Greek politicians that the Germans do not appreciate the efforts that have already been made.
EU finance ministers meeting on Tuesday will be given an update on the difficult path to a financial transactions tax (FTT).
Having concluded that this is not politically possible among all 27 member states, efforts are now concentrating on a splinter group going ahead. But finding the minimum nine member states needed is also proving difficult.
So far, five - Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal - have made it clear that they are willing to press ahead. The FTT issue affects wider EU budget talks as the money raised from the tax could feed into the budget or into the mooted eurozone-only budget increasingly being mentioned.
Eurozone ministers will meet on Monday amid a backdrop of mounting speculation about Spain asking for a full state bailout.
Madrid is already in line for a €100 billion loan for its banks but its poor economic situation has made increasingly likely that it will need more aid, something its PM Mariano Rajoy has been seeking to avoid.
Meanwhile, the boards of governors and directors of the permanent bailout fund, the €500 billion ESM, will have their inaugural meetings on 8 and 9 October following months of delay to the fund due to a legal challenge in Germany.
Enlargement will be on the agenda on Wednesday when the European Commission is to adopt an overall strategy paper on future expansion of the EU, as well as progress made by Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Iceland towards EU membership.
There will also be a paper on the feasibility of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo - an issue fraught with difficulty as a handful of EU member states do not recognise the break-away former Serb province as a country.
Economic and monetary union will be in the air in the European Parliament.
The presidents of the three main EU institutions as well as the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, will discuss the issue on Tuesday.
Draghi will also appear before MEPs separately the same day to discuss the eurozone bank's bond purchasing scheme as well as plans to create a single European banking supervisor.
The EU capital will also see about 6,000 regional experts and administrators descend for "open days" - an annual event celebrating all things regional and local.
This year's gathering comes as member states fight over how much to reduce the Cohesion Policy pot (a series of aid lines for regions) in the next longterm budget (2014-2020).