Papoulias fills in for Prime Minister

President Karolos Papoulias, who is leading the Greek delegation at a crucial summit that begins in Brussels Thursday, is expected to present European Union leaders with a letter from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras seeking adjustments to the country’s debt deal with its creditors. With Spain and Cyprus both having appealed for European rescue funding in the past few days -- and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s persistent rejection of Eurobonds as a solution to a broadening eurozone crisis stoking tensions -- Greece’s financial problems are not expected to be the focus of the summit. EU officials might briefly discuss Greek calls for amendments to the memorandum, the country’s second loan deal with its creditors, even though there appears to be little willingness for any concessions over and above an extension of Greece’s fiscal adjustment period. Still no decisions are expected to be taken on the Greek problem ahead of the planned visit to Athens next week by representatives of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika.

According to sources, Samaras’s letter does not demand specific changes to the bailout terms but notes that certain “adjustments” are necessary due to a worsening recession and high unemployment. The premier, whom Papoulias is filling in for at the summit after Samaras was told to stay home and rest following eye surgery, will be in regular contact with the president over the course of the summit. Samaras spoke by telephone Wednesday with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Francois Hollande. Sources said that Samaras sought to reassure his peers that Greece will meet its commitments to creditors while also trying to sound them out for a possible revision of the terms of the debt deal. The approach was unlikely to have pleased German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who repeated Wednesday that “Greece is well aware of its commitments from the rescue program.”

Earlier Wednesday the new finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, met with Papoulias to discuss political developments and preparations for the summit. Stournaras, who has yet to be sworn into his new role, was to remain in Athens to prepare for a visit by troika officials. Outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zannias traveled to Brussels with Papoulias.  

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