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Merkel allies signal Greece concessions before Samaras visit

Interest rates and maturities could be adjusted for Greek loans, says lawmaker

Gulf News

Berlin: Concessions are possible for Greece so long as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras shows a willingness to meet the main targets set out in his country’s bailout programme, a senior lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said.

A precedent for programme adjustments was made with the first Greek bailout, when the country secured lower interest rates and longer maturities on bilateral loans than those originally set, Norbert Barthle, the Christian Democratic Union’s budget spokesman in parliament, said on Tuesday.

“Small concessions are feasible provided they are strictly made within the framework of the second aid programme,” Barthle said. “For instance, the interest and maturity on loans could be adjusted, as in the case of the first aid package for Greece.”

Barthle’s comments add to signs of an easing in Germany’s resistance to granting Greece more room as it struggles to meet the terms laid down by its international creditors in a fifth year of recession. Samaras, whose ruling coalition favours an extension of its fiscal adjustment programme by two years, is due to meet with Merkel in Berlin on Friday, and will travel to Paris the next day for talks with President Francois Hollande.

Stocks and the euro gained, with the 17-nation single currency rising to a six-week high against the yen. It bought $1.242 at 12.27pm in Berlin, up 0.6 per cent.

Spanish, Italian yields decline

Spain’s 10-year bond yield fell seven basis points to 6.19 per cent after sliding to 6.16 per cent on Monday, the lowest since July 2. Italian 10-year yields fell nine basis points to 5.67 per cent. Equivalent German debt yielded 1.55 per cent, up 4 basis points.

While Germany won’t approve more money for Greece, existing aid payments could be brought forward, Michael Meister, a deputy leader of Merkel’s party, said separately.

“Adjustments are conceivable within the financial framework,” Meister said, reiterating comments reported earlier on Tuesday in the Die Welt newspaper. “Bringing payments forward is only possible if there’s plausible proof that it won’t create new fiscal gaps later.” If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were to go along with such an approach, “this would be conceivable,” he said.

The German Parliament’s Budget Committee would be called upon to approve any adjustments to Greece’s programme rather than a vote going to the full plenary session, Barthle said. That would probably make the concessions easier to pass.

“What’s utterly important is the will of the Greeks to fulfil the terms of financial help,” Barthle said. “The ball is in the Greeks’ court.”

Troika’s next visit

Greece’s so-called troika of international creditors — the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — returns to Athens early next month. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker visits Athens on Wednesday to discuss the country’s request for an extension to its fiscal adjustment programme.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said late on Monday that an €11.5 billion (Dh52.66 billion) package of spending cuts for the next two years is still under consideration by the government and will be ready by the time the troika returns.

Stournaras presented a €14 billion package of spending cuts to Samaras, Athens-based newspaper Ta Nea reported on Tuesday, without citing anyone. The package, which includes cuts of between 2 per cent and 20 per cent to pensions and as much as a 35 per cent reduction in pay for employees in state-run companies, will be finalised in talks with the country’s creditors by September 14, Ta Nea said.

Barthle’s comments on a possible lowering of interest rates on Greek loans were reported earlier on Tuesday in the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.