Merkel and Hollande meet to fine-tune joint line on Greece

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and the French president Francois Hollande (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are not likely to ease their stance on the Greek bailout agreement as they meet in Berlin to prepare a joint answer to Greek PM Antonis Samaras.

In brief statements before the meeting, Merkel said it is important for everyone to keep to the commitments they have made. The Chancellor also said she would “encourage” Greece to pursue reforms.

The French President stressed he wants Greece to remain in the eurozone and it is up to Athens to make the “indispensable efforts” to ensure that.

The Greek PM will meet Merkel on Friday and Hollande on Saturday to convince them that Greece needs a two year extension of the aid program to bring its economy in line. But senior German officials have signaled they are not in the mood to provide far-reaching concessions anymore, and Merkel herself stressed she expects Greece to stick to the agreements.

“I am going into these talks with the awareness that we have to achieve that every partner sticks to his commitments,” Merkel told reporters during a trip to Moldova on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the French government is trying to strike a balance between Hollande's preference for growth measures over austerity and the recognition that Athens must secure spending cuts in exchange for international aid.

"The President [Hollande] has always maintained it is indispensable for Greece to respect its commitments while at the same time it should be given hope for growth," an aide to Hollande told Reuters.

Greek PM Samaras in turn insisted that Greece does not want more money from creditors, but more time to implement tough cuts and reforms. "All we want is a little 'air to breathe' to get the economy going and increase state income," Samaras told German daily Bild ahead of the visit. "More time does not automatically mean more money."

Though Samaras is on an offensive charm trying to convince his counterparts that Greece is committed to reforms, Merkel and Hollande are unlikely to make any decision until September, when the Eurogroup prepares a report about the state of Greek finances.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the euro group, said the possibility of adjustments would depend on the findings of the so-called troika. “The truth is that Greece, given the experiences of the last two years mainly, is suffering a kind of credibility crisis,” he said during a visit to Athens.

But financial experts believe Athens is going to win nothing in the new round of bail-out talks as officials have thus far failed to produce any tangible results despite the deepening social crisis. 

Ultimately Greece has not done anything to really help itself. It has missed every possible deadline it has been given and now it has come back with its begging bowl still looking for more money, more time, more possibilities. It is like dealing with a dodgy builder: they are always promising you wonderful new highs but there never seems to be any progress,” Patrick Young, Executive Director of the investment consultancy DV Advisors, told RT. “Greece is bankrupt. Full stop. Game over.

Young nevertheless acknowledges the targets set for Greece were never achievable. Exiting the eurozone seems to be the only way out of the crisis for a country wrestling with spiraling debt and unemployment, he continued. 

Watch RT’s interview with Patrick Young