Samaras: Greece Needs 'air To Breathe'
BERLIN (AP) Greece's prime minister struck a conciliatory tone Wednesday before a closely watched visit to Germany, insisting in interviews with two influential German newspapers that his country doesn't want more money, just more time to deliver on promised economic reforms and government spending cuts.
Antonis Samaras heads to Berlin on Friday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the largest single contributor to Greece's 240 billion ($300 billion) bailout packages. German officials and some lawmakers in Merkel's coalition government have made clear they are in no mood to grant significant concessions.
"Let me be very clear: we are not asking for extra money," Samaras told Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper in an interview published Wednesday. "We stand by our commitments and the implementation of all requirements. But we must encourage growth, because that reduces the financing gaps.""All we want is a little 'air to breathe' to get the economy going and increase state income," Samaras added, without specifying any timeframe. "More time does not automatically mean more money." Some German politicians have talked openly in recent weeks about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro, and the vice chancellor, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, has said that the idea of a Greek exit has "lost its horror." But Athens insists the country must remain in the 17-nation currency zone something which opinion polls have shown the vast majority of Greeks want. Asked by Bild whether leaving the euro and returning to the drachma would be better, Samaras replied that "the consequences would be a catastrophe for Greece." "It would mean at least five more years of recession and push unemployment above 40 percent," he was quoted as saying. "A nightmare for Greece: economic collapse, social unrest and an unprecedented crisis of democracy." Before coming to power, Samaras pledged he would seek a two-year extension to the deadline for implementing unpopular cuts demanded in exchange for two international aid packages worth 240 billion that are keeping Greece afloat.
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