This is your last chance, Juncker warns Greece

Julian Harris
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JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker, head of the Eurogroup, warned last night that Greece faces its last chance to save its economy and disastrous public finances, after a day in which markets sank partly due to fear over the Eurozone debt crisis.

After meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Juncker said: “The ball is in the Greek court – in fact this is the last chance and Greek citizens have to know this.”

Greece needs to reassure its bailout providers that it is implementing structural reforms and austerity plans, yet the country still faces a “credibility crisis,” Juncker said.

Juncker, also the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, heads the group of finance ministers from Eurozone states known as the Eurogroup.

Samaras repeated pleas for his debt-riddled country to be allowed extra time to meet austerity targets as it fights to reverse its shrinking GDP.

“All we want is a bit of air to breathe to get the economy running and to increase state income. More time does not automatically mean more money,” Samaras said before the meeting. “We stand by our commitments and by fulfilling all our requirements,” the Greek PM insisted.

But Juncker said that no decision on the speed of Greece’s fiscal measures would be taken until the troika of lenders – the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – report on the government’s progress, which is not expected until mid-September.

His words echoed the sentiments of German chancellor Angela Merkel, who earlier in the day had said: “we will wait for the troika’s report and then we’ll take decisions.”

And Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager hit back at the idea of easing conditions on Greece. “If it concerns delaying reforms and budget cuts, then it is not a good idea,” he said.

Meanwhile the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 1.2 per cent lower, while Spain’s IBEX dropped sharply, down 2.7 per cent at the close of play. Bourses in Italy, the UK, Germany and France all ended down.