The French president, François Hollande, offers no concessions to Greek PM, Antonis Samaras, during meeting in Paris
The French president, François Hollande, has put more pressure on Greece to push ahead with painful reforms after a meeting with the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras.
While Hollande praised Greek citizens for making necessary budget cuts, which EU leaders hope will pull Greece back from crisis and secure the next round of bailout funds, the French leader offered no concessions to Samaras during their meeting in Paris on Saturday.
Samaras has been seeking more time to pass reforms, arguing that an extension of up to two years would allow Greece time to improve growth and therefore its public finances.
But Hollande said no decision could be taken on the issue until European ministers have considered a financial report on Greece, which is due to be published by the International Monetary Fund, the European commission and the European Central Bank in September.
The report will be presented to a Eurogroup summit in October and Hollande said Europe needed to make decisions “the sooner the better”.
“We’ve been facing this question for two-and-a-half years; there’s no time to lose, there are commitments to reaffirm on both sides, decisions to take, and the sooner the better,” Hollande said.
Hollande’s position echoes that of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who met Samaras in Berlin on Friday.
However, the French president was keen to promote the idea of solidarity. “For me, the question should no longer be asked: Greece is in the eurozone,” he said.
“In the face of ordeals, we must show more solidarity … I hailed the efforts that the Greek people have committed to painfully for the last two years,” Hollande said. “We need to be aware of all that has been done.”
Samaras needs to put in place economic and structural reforms, which include changes to the labour market and more privatisation, and spending cuts of some €11.5bn (£9.1bn) over the next two years.
Responding to concerns that Greece may not stick to such harsh requirements amid pressure from the financial markets, Samaras restated a commitment to the plan.
“Some continue to speculate against Greece … to speculate by saying that Greece won’t pull through, that it can’t stay in the eurozone,” he said. “I’m here today to say that will pull through, it will stay in the eurozone. I also think we can fulfil our commitments and goals, reduce our deficits, reduce our debt, achieve the structural reforms that have begun privatisations and justice.”
If he succeeds, Samaras will secure €33.5bn in the second instalment of the €130bn bailout, which Greece needs to repay on its debt burden and to stay in the euro.