Samaras visit marks 'new relations' with Germany
By Honor Mahony
Greek leader Antonis Samaras has said talks on Friday with Angela Merkel signalled the start of new relations between Athens and Berlin but the German chancellor remained characteristically cautious.
"My visit today marks the start of new relations between our two countries. This is a new step for a new beginning," said Samaras, following talks with Merkel on how Greece is proceeding with the structural reforms, privatisation and budget cutting that is being demanded of it in return for bailout money.
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The centre-right leader, currently seeking to prove to eurozone leaders that Greece has earned the right to an extension in the amount of time needed to carry out reforms, said that Athens has two deficits to reduce - a budget deficit and a credibility deficit.
"We are a proud people and we do not like living off borrowed money. We have resources and we will try to make use of them."
Merkel for her part agreed that it was a "good beginning" but added "there is a lot still to do."
She noted that "impatience" grew when Greece in the past missed many reform deadlines and that "trust" had been eroded in the eurozone over the course of the crisis.
"I've made it clear what we expect from Greece...words [must] be followed by deeds."
In return, Berlin would support Greece's attempt to reach the goals and fulfill expectations. Meanwhile, Athens had the "right" to be judged on its efforts in the forthcoming progress report by officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known as the troika.
Samaras for his part said he was "certain" that the troika report will show that Greece is on the right track.
Once again he reiterated that Greece is not looking for more money but for "breathing space" and a chance of "recovery" after five years of recession.
Samaras will follow his meeting with Merkel with a visit to President Francois Hollande in Paris on Saturday (25 August).
It will mark the end of a week full of meetings concerning Greece. But despite the flurry of activity, the eurozone is in waiting mode.
The nature of the highly anticipated troika report, due late September, will determine whether Athens receives the next tranche (€33.5bn) of its bailout money and whether it is granted any flexibility in its bailout programme. Without the next payment, Samaris has said his country will not be able to pay its bills.
However, Merkel has repeatedly stressed that she wants Greece to remain a part of the single currency, a point she made once again on Friday.