BERLIN — Greece's prime minister has warned those politicians in Europe who are happy to see the country leave the euro that such an event could trigger a domino effect throughout the 17-nation bloc using the euro currency.
Antonis Samaras’ comments, printed Thursday, come amid a diplomatic push to earn his debt-crippled nation more time to complete reforms and hold on to its bailout loans. Without the access to the bailout funds, Greece would be forced into a chaotic default on its debts and be forced out of the eurozone.
Following meetings in Athens on Wednesday with Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs meetings of eurozone finance ministers and is also Luxembourg’s prime minister, he heads to Berlin on Friday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and to France on Saturday for talks with President Francois Hollande.
Ahead of that, Hollande is coming to Berlin on Thursday to meet with Merkel himself as the eurozone’s two biggest economic powers try to determine what should be done.
Greece’s continued access to its €240 billion ($300 billion) bailout packages hinges on a favorable report from the so-called “troika” of the country’s debt inspectors — the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. If Greece is found to have failed on key economic reforms that are conditions of the bailout loan, vital funds could be halted.
Some German politicians — though not Merkel or her finance minister — 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.” Germany is the largest single contributor to Greece’s bailout packages.
Samaras told Bild newspaper in an interview printed Thursday, however, that “all of these statements don’t help at all.”
“Germany needs a strong eurozone,” Samaras was quoted as saying. “And if a country is forced out of the euro, it would probably not be the last, at least that’s what the financial markets would see, and to fight against that would be difficult.”
Samaras has said that his country does not need more money, but does need more time to carry out reforms and government spending cuts.
But, he said, given the opportunity, he was confident Greece would rebound.
“Greece has enormous economic potential that we need to use,” he said. “We will make a spectacular comeback.”
Merkel cautioned on Wednesday that she and Samaras “will not find solutions” during this week’s meeting and noted that Europe is waiting for a report next month from Greece’s international debt inspectors.
“Then the decisions will be made,” she said during a visit to Moldova.