Cautious support from Paris

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is to plunge back into the fray of domestic politics this week following a charm offensive involving visits to Berlin and Paris where German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande reiterated their support for Greece’s membership of the eurozone as long as the country meets its commitments to international creditors.

Hollande stressed that Greece belongs within the 27-nation single currency bloc but urged Athens to do more to show its commitment to the terms of a multi-billion-euro bailout.

“For me, Greece’s position in the eurozone is not up for question,” Hollande told a joint press conference with Samaras. “But it still has to demonstrate the credibility of its program and the willingness of its leaders to go the whole way,” the French leader said. He also acknowledged the sacrifices made by Greek citizens. “In the face of ordeals, we must show more solidarity,” he said, adding that reforms should be implemented in a way “that is bearable for the population.”

Hollande emphasized that a crucial decision on further rescue aid to Greece would depend on a report to be compiled by officials of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, or the troika, in late September or early October.

Samaras, for his part, insisted that Greece would succeed in overhauling its economy, defying global markets. “Some are betting that Greece will not make it. I am here to assure the French President that Greece is determined to make it and will,” Samaras said, adding that the country would do “whatever is needed.”

In Athens this week Samaras is to brief his coalition partners -- socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis. Talks will also focus on some 11.5 billion euros in measures for 2013 and 2014 that have been demanded by the troika and an extra 2 billion euros in cuts to cover a shortfall expected to result from reduced tax revenues and social security contributions.

Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras reportedly want the new measures -- spending cuts and fresh reductions to pensions and benefits -- to be voted through Parliament by late September or early October. But Venizelos and Kouvelis, who object to some proposed measures, are said to prefer them being approved in chunks to lessen their social impact.


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