By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble expressed his respect for the problems Greece had to overcome as part of the country’s reform effort adding that performance in several areas has exceeded expectations.
The comments come after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin for talks last Friday.
The Greek premier came out of that meeting with a message of support from Angela Merkel strengthening the Greek side’s hand in ongoing negotiations with the troika.
The political support of the German Chancellor is very important to Greece’s coalition government as it aims to convince inspectors that it is carrying out the economic program and structural reforms with considerable success proven in part by the primary surplus in the budget this year.
The Samaras-Merkel meeting proved the Greek government has grown stronger through its efforts in implementing the adjustment program and will now actively seek to ensure Greece is granted debt relief in some form or other, addressing the all – important fiscal issue.
Addressing an economic conference organized in Berlin by Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Saturday that reforms and structural changes were Greece’s top priorities, adding that the first steps have already been made, but the country still has a long way to go.
The Greek Prime Minister stressed that more structural changes and fewer fiscal adjustments should have been made in Greece in recent years, noting that reforms are the government’s priority.
Samaras also said that the government’s current aim was to conclude negotiations with the troika within December, adding that Greece would not need a new bail-out program, as the European Union has pledged to take Greek debt relief measures.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund’s envoy to Greece, Poul Thomsen, has told Kathimerini that the troika is not pushing for “horizontal measures” such as further cuts to salaries and pensions, but that structural reforms and a reduction of wasteful spending are necessary.
“We agree with the authorities that horizontal measures should be avoided,” Thomsen said in an interview published in Sunday’s Kathimerini, adding that he understood that “new fiscal measures are difficult politically and socially.” Any cutbacks should be “targeted carefully to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.
The IMF envoy’s statements reveal the Greek side and the troika are closer to reaching a compromise following the Samaras-Merkel meeting in Berlin.