Monday

19th Nov 2018

Samaras in Berlin visit amid reports of 'Grexit' working group

  • Samaras is on his first official visit to Berlin since taking office in June (Photo: EUobserver)

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has called on EU politicians to stop unhelpful speculation about his country's exit from the eurozone but his plea comes as it emerged that German officials have set up a 'Grexit' working group.

He told Le Monde newspaper that efforts to undertake the tough reforms demanded by Greece's lenders are being undermined by regular negative statements about Athens' euro future.

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"How can we privatise when, every day, European officials speculate publicly about a potential exit of Greece from the common currency? This has got to stop.”

Samaras said an exit from the eurozone would be "devastating" for Greece as no democracy could survive such a drop in living standards but also for other eurozone countries who would feel sharp knock-on effects.

His Le Monde interview - part of a series of interviews in French and German papers designed to win support for Greece - coincided with his first official visit to paymaster Germany, where rhetoric on Greece is the toughest.

Samaras will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin Friday (24 August) to put the case for more flexibility around the austerity programme demanded by creditors in return for the second €130bn bailout.

He said the meeting would not be about discussing the goals of the programme but how to achieve them while maintaining "social cohesion."

However his visit coincides with news that the German finance ministry has established a special working group to discuss how to deal with a potential Greek exit from the eurozone.

Financial Times Deutschland revealed that the group is being headed up by state secretary Thomas Steffen, meets regularly and reports to the chancellor's office.

The group is considering the "financial consequences" of an exit and how to prevent a "domino effect" to other states, the newspaper quotes a ministry official as saying.

Samaras' Berlin visit takes place amid scepticism among the German population about Greece's reform efforts.

According to a new N24-Emnid poll, 75 percent of Germans do not want Athens to be granted flexibility on its programme while 68 percent do not believe the country is doing everything it can to stick to the programme, and 69 percent oppose a third bailout for the country.

Merkel tackled the truculent mood in Germany in a video message released Thursday.

'We are living through one of Europe's worst crises. This crisis has built up over many years and will therefore take a long time to overcome. It will be difficult.'

'But I am deeply convinced that at the end of this path, we will have a sustainable and strengthened eurozone and European Union,' said the chancellor.

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The German and French leaders put on a careful display of unity on Greece on Thursday in Berlin, appearing briefly before press to urge Athens to continue reforms.

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Eurozone leaders will this week begin a round of shuttle diplomacy focussed on debt-stricken Greece amid reports that Athens' deficit problems are greater than previously thought.

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Greek leader Antonis Samaras has said talks on Friday with Angela Merkel marked the start of new relations between Athens and Berlin but the German chancellor remained characteristically cautious.

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Italy would be committing economic "suicide" if it fell in line with EU rules, its deputy leader has said, in a sign that Rome has little intention of bowing to pressure ahead of Tuesday's budget deadline.

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