Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras earlier today, ahead of the critical Eurogroup meeting tomorrow. The meeting was also attended by Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis and the discussion was dominated by the upcoming Eurogroup meeting in Brussels and Greece’s negotiations strategy on the matter.
Venizelos characterized tommorow’s meeting as crucial for the difficult negotiations the Greek government is already carrying out in order to “complete this phase and move on to a new era, after the memorandum and the Troika, with all the safeguards of the existing European mechanisms” that would allow the country to breathe after years of recession and unpopular austerity measures, and move as an equal partner in the international economy.
Asked to comment on Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijssebloem’s statements regarding a possible extension of the current program, Venizelos declared that this was a misunderstanding – as also stated in an earlier Finance Ministry announcement – and that Hardouvelis’ discussion with Dijssebloem was centered on the period after the exit of the current program. “We must be very calm, very precise and not undermine our own efforts with a nervous internal discussion,” he stressed, noting that such rumors give market speculators a pretext to attack Greece.
In addition, while answering journalists’ questions, Venizelos said that the Troika will return to Athens as soon as possible, underlining that its mission does not require its representatives physical presence in order to negotiate, as this is a constant process. Venizelos also affirmed that the period until December’s European Council is sufficient to move to the next phase, noting that the climate in the country was not the best possible for negotiations of a national nature but the government would not be dismayed by those seeking to obstruct and undermine the country: “We have the mandate and the institutional responsibility, and our goal is to end this before the last Eurogroup in 2014, on December 8,” Venizelos added.
Commenting on the ongoing speculation of a political party leaders’ council, expressed by main opposition party SYRIZA, the Greek Foreign Minister declared that there is “no national danger, not decision on a foreign policy issue that we are called upon to make.” Regarding the strained relations between Greece and Turkey due to the later’s provocations in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Venizelos called Turkey to “stop violating international law and respect the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus,” revealing at the same time that there will soon be a good briefing of the political parties, inviting them to attend the National Council on Foreign Policy to be held on Monday, as well as the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs next Tuesday, noting that the Foreign Ministry is at the party leaders’ disposal for any clarification.