Hollande, Merkel, size up Greek request

Aug. 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM
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BERLIN, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Leaders of Germany and France met Thursday in part to get on the same page before the two meet with their counterpart from Greece, a political analyst said.

Before Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday and French President Francois Hollande meets with Samaras Saturday, "They want to show that Germany and France are not as different as they are believed to be," said Claire Demesmay of the German Council of Foreign Relations.

There is little expectation that Merkel and Hollande went into their discussions with new proposals to reveal, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Instead, "It is about communication and sending a strong message, not only to Greece, but also to the markets," Demesmay said.

On the table is a request from Samaras to extend repayment terms on two international bailouts.

That request is bumping up against frustration with Greece that is building in the international community and against the stark reality that the entire eurozone, Germany and France included, could be facing a double-dip recession.

On Thursday, Markit Economics said the manufacturing data from the eurozone in July indicated the region would require a strong uptick in business activity to avoid a backsliding gross domestic product in the third quarter.

Germany and France, the largest two economies in the currency region, both showed contracting business activity in July. The composite business index for the eurozone showed "a contraction of the eurozone private sector for seven successive months," Markit said.

Samaras has repeatedly said Greece doesn't need more money, just time.

Greece had "a need for air, to get our breath back," he said.

Time, however, requires patience and that appears to be running thin. "More time is not a solution for the problems," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble.

To paraphrase, however, Merkel said first things first.

The so-called troika, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund is expected to issue a report on Greece's progress next month.

"It is important that we all uphold our commitments and wait for the troika report to see what the result is," Merkel said.

"I will encourage Greece continue on its path to reform," she added.

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