Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker has kept Greek hopes of a bailout extension alive – but only just.
During talks in Athens, Juncker acknowledged calls from premier Antonis Samaras for a ‘breathing space’ to meet bailout commitments but stressed financial reforms were imperative.
“The ball is in the Greek corner. In fact this is the last chance, and Greek citizens have to know this, and be fully aware about the fact that the Greek prime minister is taking this very seriously,” Juncker said during a press conference.
Samaras responded by putting his own positive spin on his country’s efforts:
“I have explained to Mr Juncker that we have enhanced the privatisation agenda, we are speeding up the necessary structural reforms and that within the next few weeks we shall conclude the 11.7 billion euro budget cuts.”
But it is Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will have a big say in Samaras’ request for an extension of two years to implement those painful cuts. He will continue his diplomatic offensive with her on Friday.
But when the chancellor was asked about her meeting with Samaras she said: “It will not be any different from what has been said in the past. We will not find any solutions on Friday. Instead, we will wait for the troika’s report and then decisions will be made.”
So the outcome of the Greek leader’s shuttle diplomacy will depend on next month’s meeting of Greece’s main lenders. Will their report on the country’s performance on meeting targets produce a life line or sound a death knell?