EU offers cautious support

Following a series of meetings with high-level European leaders, Greece’s caretaker Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos said Thursday that it was “self-evident” Greece would remain in the eurozone, noting however that it was equally “self-evident” that Athens must stick to the terms of its debt deal with foreign creditors.

The premier’s comments, made to reporters at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, appeared to reflect the stance of most of his interlocutors, who included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

“We want Greece to remain in the euro area,” Merkel said. She added however, “We expect that they will stick to their commitments.” Van Rompuy said EU leaders recognized the sacrifices made by Greeks and pledged to release structural funding to boost growth. But he noted that “the eurozone has shown considerable solidarity” and called on Athens to “continue vital reforms.”

Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that eurozone countries “have to consider all kinds of events,” an apparent allusion to the need for contingency plans for a Greek exit from the euro. He added however that “the working assumption” was that Greece would remain part of the currency union.

Diplomats told Kathimerini that EU leaders fell into two clear camps in Brussels. On the one hand, the German, Dutch and other Northern European leaders maintained a tough stance, insisting that Greece honor the terms of its debt deal to foreign creditors to the letter. The other, more lenient camp was led by Hollande, the French president, and was said to include Van Rompuy, Barroso and the leaders of countries that would find themselves in the biggest trouble in the event of a Greek euro exit.

The issue of Greece was not the key focus of the EU summit where the need to boost growth and curb rising unemployment was debated though no decisions were taken. Still the Greek premier took the opportunity to seek support. He said he proposed to EU leaders that the European Investment Bank set up a “risk-sharing instrument” to manage stalled infrastructure projects in Greece and suggested the use of “project bonds” to help get such works off the ground.  

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