How Is Samaras Doing? So Far, the Euro Zone Likes the New Greek Leader

Joanna Kakissis, Time, 27.08.2012

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Just two months after his party eked out a victory in contentious Greek elections, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is wooing another tough crowd: euro-zone leaders.

Last week was a good start. On Wednesday, he got the backing of Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, when Juncker visited Athens and declared that he was “totally opposed” to Greece leaving the euro, the European Union’s common currency. On Friday, Samaras also received the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the biggest contributor to the bailout loans to Greece. “I want Greece to stay in the euro zone and that’s what I’m working for,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, rebuking anti-Greece lawmakers in her own governing coalition. And on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande said he saluted Greeks for weathering painful austerity cuts over the last two-and-a-half years. […]

However, the Europeans’ newfound love for Greece has little to do with Samaras himself, who infuriated euro-zone leaders for two years when he virulently opposed austerity measures during the Socialist PASOK government led by former premier George Papandreou. The euro-zone brass simply views Samaras as the country’s “last chance leader,” says Janis Emmanouilidis, a senior analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. “Samaras has long been seen as an obstructionist but the Europeans believe there isn’t another option,” Emmanoulidis says.

“European leaders believe Samaras will be far easier to negotiate with than Tsipras, whom they feared as an even bigger obstructionist,” Emmanouilidis says. “But there’s fear that if Samaras doesn’t come through, Greece won’t make it.” […]

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