Greek PM Takes Debt Crisis Talks to Paris

Greek PM Takes Debt Crisis Talks to Paris

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras headed to Paris Saturday on the second leg of a trip to try and win more time for his country to meet a deadline to slash billions of euros (dollars) from its budget.

Samaras was due to meet French President Francois Hollande, a day after Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel offered a ray of hope to Greece, stressing she wanted the debt-burdened country to stay in the eurozone.

Samaras on Friday kicked off a two-day trip to Berlin and Paris with his troubled country’s future in the 17-nation eurozone in the balance as its cash reserves dry up and a new injection of European funds hangs by a thread.

The trip began just after Merkel and Hollande urged Greece to redouble its reform efforts to unlock a new funding lifeline.

As part of a 130-billion-euro ($161-billion) bailout package from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece has committed to sweeping reforms and some 11.5 billion euros of cuts in 2013 and 2014.

But amid reports that the budgetary hole is actually closer to 14 billion euros and a recession now in its fifth year, Samaras is thought to want a two-year extension to make the cuts.

Merkel on Friday pledged German help after her crisis talks with the Greek leader.

Hollande repeated Thursday after talks with Merkel that he also wants Greece to remain in the eurozone but that it was in the hands of the Greeks themselves.

For his part, Samaras pledged Friday to stick to all of Greece’s promises to its international creditors and said that he was not asking for more bailout money, but just “breathing space” to implement the spending cuts and reforms.

In the run-up to his trip to Berlin and Paris, Samaras engaged on a media charm offensive, telling papers in Germany and France that a “Grexit”, or Greek exit from the euro, would be catastrophic for Europe.

He told a key opinion-forming paper in Germany, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung: “The Germans will get their money back, that I guarantee personally. And all the others will get their money back too.”

And in French daily Le Monde, he also warned Greece’s exit from the euro would start a devastating domino effect that would hit other members of the common currency.