Greece facing last chance, says eurozone chief Juncker


Jean-Claude Juncker: "I personally think ordinary people in Greece have suffered a lot and it would not be advisable to put further demands on them"

Eurozone finance chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said the Greek people have to be aware the country is facing its "last chance".

After a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Mr Juncker praised the nation's "tremendous efforts" so far to cut its deficit.

But he said "priority number one" was further consolidation of the public finances of Greece.

He added that Athens must put in place economic and structural reforms.

These include changes to the labour market, and the relaunching of privatisation programmes which have been promised but not enacted.

Mr Samaras promised that Greece would finalise a package of cuts worth 11.5bn euros (£9.1bn: $14bn) in the next few weeks.

He wants an extension of up to two years to implement those painful cuts.

Antonis Samaras: "We talked about the serious, decisive efforts we are making as a country"

But Mr Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, said a decision on that would depend on a report from Greece's main lenders, due next month.

"I have to underline this will depend on the findings of the troika mission and we have to discuss the length of the period and other dimensions," Mr Juncker told a news conference alongside Mr Samaras.

'Fruitful' talks

The troika of international lenders - the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission - will return to Greece next month to assess whether the country is on target to meet the conditions of its bailout.

Start Quote

Leo, a Greek pensioner

If I had saved all those payments in a bank account I would be rich by now; where has it all gone?”

End Quote 'Leo' Greek pensioner

Mr Samaras said he had also told Mr Juncker that Greece was serious about tackling tax evasion, while at the same time looking to provide security for its citizens.

"I talked to him about the serious, active, measures we are making as a country," Mr Samaras said.

He said that the three parties of the ruling coalition were also fully behind the package of cuts being implemented.

His country was "turning the page, economically, politically and socially", said Mr Samaras.

"The meeting was very fruitful," he added. "He [Mr Juncker] was able to update us about... the expectations that Europe has for Greece."

He said as well as Greece's debt, the pair also discussed the availability of finances for Greek businesses, with Mr Samaras saying that small and medium-sized firms in the country were "asphyxiating" because of a lack of funds.

On the wider issue of whether there was a danger of Greece leaving the euro, Mr Samaras said he was "confident that all those betting on a Greek exit - undermining our efforts - will be proven wrong".

"We will prove them wrong through our deeds, not just our words," he added.

Mr Juncker also said that he was "totally opposed" to a Greek exit from the eurozone.

Greece discussions timetable

  • 22 August: Greek PM Antonis Samaras meets Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker
  • 23 August: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande meet
  • 24 August: Chancellor Merkel and PM Samaras meet
  • 25 August: President Hollande and PM Samaras meet
  • Early September: Troika staff go back to Greece
  • 14-15 September: Gathering of European finance ministers in Cyprus
  • Troika's review of progress to be published by the end of September
  • 8-9 October: Finance ministers attend two days of meetings in Luxembourg
Welfare spending

Later this week Mr Samaras will also meet Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

At issue during the week of talks is whether Greece will receive its next instalment of loans worth 31.5bn euros that it needs to avoid defaulting on its vast public debts.

Under the terms of the bailout agreement, Greece needs to demonstrate it can find 11.5bn euros in public spending cuts within two years in order to qualify for the money.

There are also reports that due to the worsening state of the economy, which affects tax receipts and welfare spending levels, Greece may now need to find savings of up to 13.5bn euros, 2bn more than thought.

Eurozone leaders have so far resisted any move to soften the bailout conditions, especially in Germany, where the government is under pressure not to make any more concessions.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    The Euro was doomed almost from the start, how can countries that have different capacities for earning money from exports be tied to the same level of inflation. The northern countries in the Euro zone have their heavy industries to support them via their exports, where as the southern countries depend on tourism and and agriculture to pull in the money. The system has to be changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    The ECB keeps saying it will 'Do whatever it takes' to resolve the Euro Crisis. Well that time is now and it first involves stopping further loans to Greece, which cannot and will not be paid back, and making Greece exit the Euro! It's going to happen, so why prolong the agony!

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Let's get something straight.

    These "bail out billions" are not for ordinary Greeks. They are EU loans to pay for the money the Greeks owe to the banks. In other words, ordinary EU taxpayers are providing the money to prevent rich elites losing theirs.

    And before we all get uppity, the UK owes billions as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    We must not abandon our brothers and sisters in Greece to the cannibalistic wolves and bears of international banking. It will whet their appetite and unleash a feeding frenzy around the world resulting in even more global war and turmoil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    The effects on Greece of exit will be bad in the short term, however in the medium to long term it would help the country.

    If the EZ area want to look like they controlled it they would let Greece stay in the EU and be advertising it now then EU funds could be used to help buffer the negative effects of exit. When Greece starts to grow then they will pay this money back through their contribution


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