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Europe
Merkel and Hollande work on Greek tactics
French and German leaders stand tough on Greece's request for "breathing space" to help meet its austerity targets.
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2012 01:52

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Greece to stick to its programme of reforms as she began talks with French President Francois Hollande that are likely to be dominated by the state of the debt-wracked nation.

"It is important for me that we all stick to our commitments ... but I will encourage Greece to continue along its path of reforms," Merkel told reporters on Thursday.

She added it was important to wait for a report by Greece's international creditors on Athens' progress on reforms before making any further decisions on whether the recession-hit country could stay in the euro.

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For his part, Hollande said he was in favour of Greece remaining in the 17-country bloc but that this was in the hands of the Greeks themselves.

"I want Greece to stay in the eurozone," he said, adding however: "It's up to the Greeks to make the necessary efforts so that we can achieve this goal."

Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister, is geared to embark on a charm offensive trip to Berlin and Paris on Friday in the hope of persuading Europe's big powers that Greece deserves patience.

Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer, reporting from Berlin, said that Samaras could not expect Hollande or Merkel to present any sort of deal for Greece at this time.

"They took a relatively tough line, saying that Greece needs to stick by its commitments," said Spicer.

"They're going through the institutions that exist - they're not trying to come up with some sort of Franco-German decision that would be seen as a dictat."

Greece seeks 'breathing space'

Samaras has been giving interviews to German media stressing that while Athens may seek more time to meet austerity targets, it was not asking for more money from partners. But Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister, sounded a stern note.

 As many expected Greek PM Antonis Samaras has asked for "breathing space" to implement austerity measures [EPA]

"More time is not a solution to the problems," Schaeuble told German radio, addressing Samaras' hopes that his country might be given four years instead of two to push through tough economic reforms, to alleviate the impact on the Greek people.

Schaeuble warned that more time could also mean "more money" and added that Europe's help for Greece had already "gone to the limits of what is economically viable".

European leaders say any decisions on Greece will depend on a report next month on its progress by a "troika" of EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund inspectors.

Merkel receives Samaras on Friday and Hollande receives him on Saturday, at a moment of rare optimism on financial markets that the EU - especially the ECB - is poised for decisive action on the eurozone debt crisis.

Merkel herself dashed hopes for far-reaching concessions on Wednesday, saying during a trip to Moldova that she was "going into these talks with the awareness that we have to achieve that every partner sticks to his commitments".

But behind the stern public message, Berlin and Paris may have little choice but to give Samaras what he called "a bit of air to breathe".

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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