EU: Working to keep Greece firmly in the eurozone

GMT 15:09 2014 Monday ,15 December

Arab Today, arab today EU: Working to keep Greece firmly in the eurozone

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
Brussels - AFP

The EU said Monday its sole aim for Greece is to keep the twice-bailed out country firmly in the eurozone, as Athens battles hostile financial markets spooked by the possibility of early elections.
"The only option that the (European) Commission is working for is to keep Greece firmly in the eurozone," a spokeswoman said, amid widespread speculation market turmoil could force cash-strapped Athens out of the single currency bloc.
"I think that the commitment of this European Commission to the efforts of the Greek authorities and the Greek people has been made very clear," she added.  
With all eyes on Greece as the global economy runs into fresh trouble, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici began a visit Monday to review progress on the tough austerity measures Athens agreed to in return for two massive debt bailouts.
These have been hugely unpopular, putting centre-right Prime Minister Antonis Samaras under intense pressure to change course as he fought to keep his coalition government together.
With a very narrow majority in the assembly, Samaras last week took a high-risk decision to hold an election for president, with a first vote due in parliament Wednesday.
If his candidate, former EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, loses, national elections would follow, with the radical left-wing Syriza party standing a good chance of victory, according to polls.
Syriza is bitterly opposed to the austerity policies it claims were imposed on Greece to save the eurozone and western banks, not the country which suffered through a deep six-year recession as a result.
Last week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that "extreme forces" could take power in Greece with dire results.
"I think the Greeks ... know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the eurozone," Juncker said on Austrian TV.
Critics said his comments were out of line with the strict neutrality the EU should maintain on member state internal politics.
In an interview Monday with Greek daily Kathimerini, Moscovici said it was unlikely he would meet Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.
He said neither the markets nor the European Union liked uncertainty, "but again we don’t interfere in Greek politics."
"The Greek people will choose their destiny," he said. "We don’t have to influence that but then again it’s logical that we speak with legitimate people who do and who think what we think."
Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis warned Monday that Athens could face a funding shortage if early elections are held in the middle of delicate negotiations with its international creditors.


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