Italian prime minister Enrico Letta has visited his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaris in a show of solidarity as the country scrapes through the conditions required for its next tranche of aid.
Ahead of the meeting, which is thought to have covered subjects like youth unemployment, immigration and energy, Samaras said Greece was “firmly on the path” of reform and fiscal adjustment after the German budget committee formally cleared the country for its next tranche of aid.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Samaras added that the top priority for Greece would be tackling unemployment, with over a quarter of the population out of work. The Greek government would continue to focus on cutting spending and achieving a primary budget surplus. The European Commission certainly sees this as possible, with a review out today forecasting a primary surplus of 4.5 per cent by 2016.
Letta was optimistic about the future of Greece and Europe, tweeting over the weekend that Athens is a symbol of change, and adding today that Europe will be reborn in Greece.
Domani #Atene per dire ai greci che vogliamo un'altra Europa,con lavoro,cultura,speranza parole chiave.Atene simbolo di Ue che deve cambiare— Enrico Letta (@EnricoLetta) July 27, 2013
[Tomorrow in Athens to tell the Greeks we want a different Europe, with work, culture and hope as keywords. Athens is a symbol that we must change.]
Letta added that a number of Italian companies were interested in the Greek privatisation programme. That EU report also lowered the Greek privatisation target for 2013 to €1.6bn, but raised the 2014 target to €3.5bn. The overall target for 2011-20 is for €24.2bn of privatisation receipts.
However, the Italian prime minister went one step further in his show of solidarity when he blasted the European reaction to the crisis and blamed its reaction for the severity of the Greek collapse.
There is no doubt that serious mistakes were made about Greece by Europe in the past few years.
The timing was wrong. The instruments were wrong. The interventions were not made in the right way and at the right time and this worsened the crisis.
The crisis would have been different. It would have created less of a financial disaster, it would have led to fewer job losses across Europe if Europe's attitude to Greece had been different at the beginning.
Speaking yesterday, German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said that Greece must be pressured to keep its austerity pledges – but denied his comments had anything to do with the upcoming German elections in September. He’s also kept open the possibility of a second round of debt restructuring in Greece.
Letta has invited Samaras to join him in Rome in September for further talks.