It might not be the compliment he’d like, with Greeks furious he’s going to impose more austerity measures and critics saying he has kow-towed to international lenders, but the American news magazine Time says that Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is the golden boy of European leaders because he’s supporting more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions to keep bailouts coming to prop up the failing Greek economy.
In an article entitled How is Samaras Doing? the magazine noted that European Union (EU) officials like him because the head of the New Democracy Conservatives is keeping the anti-austerity major opposition party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras – deemed an enemy to Europe’s political establishment, at bay.
Samaras’ uneasy coalition government is preparing to make another $14.16 billion in cuts, aimed primarily at workers, pensioners and the poor, reneging on his vow to try to renegotiate the conditions of a pending second bailout, this one for $173 billion, from the Troika of the EU-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank. Greece is surviving on a first series of $152 billion in loans, but has only one more installment, for $38.8 billion, coming next month and without continued aid it won’t be able to keep paying workers and pensioners.
Samaras is also reportedly ready to fire 45,000 government workers, earning him more praise from EU leaders who want more austerity for Greece, although labor union leaders said they are ready to unleash a new torrent of the same kind of protests, strikes and riots that brought down the former government of then PASOK Socialist leader George Papandreou last year. He is fleeing to Harvard to teach a course on government.
Samaras has just returned from visits to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Francois Hollande in Paris, after meeting Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Eurozone, the 17 countries that use the euro as a currency, in Athens. All three said they want Greece to stay in the Eurozone and not risk being tossed out because of a default that could come if they pull the plug on loans if he doesn’t follow their orders. Time noted that earned him their praise, but didn’t report they also told him he has to stick to his commitments to make more reforms.
“There is a lot of discomfort ahead of us but up to now, Merkel and the Germans like what they hear from the Greek Prime Minister. Will the honeymoon last?” the magazine asked. “Just two months after his political party won the contentious elections … Samaras excites another tough crowd,” it added, referring to the leaders of the Eurozone.
“The Eurozone sees him as the last opportunity for Greece for some time now it is considered that Samaras is stalling, but the Europeans believe that there is no other choice,” said Yiannis Emmanouilides, an analyst at the European Center of Politics in Brussels, seat of the European Union.
The article continued that EU leaders were relieved with the results of the Greek elections that were narrowly won by Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives over SYRIZA and Tsipras, who had vowed to remove Greece from the bailout memorandum he said was crushing Greek workers, pensioners and the poor.
Samaras did not have enough of the vote to form a government though, and had to reach out to his political rivals, the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left, to create a coalition that is showing cracks over his insistence on following the Troika’s orders to make more cuts and institute the firing of public workers. It wants 150,000 removed from the public payrolls over the next two years. Samaras said he would like two more years to meet fiscal targets but didn’t ask Juncker, Merkel or Hollande.
Time also noted that Juncker snubbed Tsipras and wouldn’t meet him, resulting in SYRIZA Member of Parliament Dimitris Papadimoulis talking about an ‘insult to democracy,” leading the magazine to add: “As much as Tsipras insists that he wants Greece to remain in the Eurozone, the leaders of the Eurozone and Samaras himself have labeled him as a supporter of the drachma,” the ancient currency Greece abandoned more than a decade ago. The German magazine Der Spiegel labeled Tsipras as one of the 10 Most Dangerous Politicians of the EU, the article noted.
Time said there is concern that if Europeans continue playing a tough game and demand more austerity that could instigate a wave of upheaval in Greece, where a polarized society blames its political establishment for the bankruptcy of the country and selling out to international lenders, although Greeks re-elected the same parties who had created the crisis.