The outgoing US President said he would press for “meaningful debt relief” in order to help Greece return to growth.
The Greek government wants to use a two-day visit by US President Barack Obama to Athens today (15 November) to put pressure on EU partners – especially Germany – to speed up long-awaited debt relief measures.
“The visit of US President Obama to our country is of high significance,” Greek government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Real FM Radio yesterday (14 November), saying it is the first visit of an American President to Greece in 17 years.
Barack Obama travels today (14 November) to Greece and Germany in a final official visit designed, in a strange bit of political contortion, at reassuring worried Europeans about a man he once warned was “unfit” for the presidency: Donald Trump.
Tzanakopoulos said the agenda includes the crucial Greek debt talks, the management of the refugee crisis, the Cyprus issue, and bilateral relations between the US and Greece more generally.
“I think he wants to close the eight years of his administration with solutions to a number of issues relating to US foreign policy and economic policy and for this reason perhaps, Trump’s victory strengthens even more the will of the current US government to provide a solution to the problem of the Greek debt,” Tzanakopoulos said.
Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has ruled out granting any debt relief for Greece, especially before the German elections next year. On the other hand, the International Monetary Fund insists it won’t participate in the Greek bailout without clear debt relief measures by EU partners.
A leaked telephone conversation, and the reactions which followed, revealed a “silent war” between the United States and Germany over the Greek crisis, with Athens’ leftist government finding itself more in tune with Washington than Berlin.
“Meaningful debt relief”
In an interview with Kathimerini, the outgoing US President said he would press for “meaningful debt relief” in order to help Greece return to growth.
“The International Monetary Fund has said that debt relief is crucial to put Greece’s economy on a sustainable path and set the stage for a return to prosperity,” Obama said.
“This is why I will continue to urge Greece’s creditors to take the steps needed to ensure the country is well placed to return to robust economic growth, including by providing meaningful debt relief.”
Trump’s victory raised eyebrows in Athens due to his stance on the debt issue. During the tough negotiations between Greece and its creditors, he told Fox Business:
“We have enough problems, let Germany handle it. Germany will take care of it. This is peanuts for Germany. They’ll take care of it. Frankly, Putin probably comes in to save the day, if Germany doesn’t.”
Last week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that Barack Obama briefed President-elect Trump on his last foreign trip to Greece, Germany, and Peru.
In his interview with Kathimerini, Obama also praised Athens’ contribution to the NATO military alliance despite its “economic hardships”.
“Americans continue to place enormous importance on our alliance with Greece. Despite facing extraordinary economic hardships, Greece is one of five NATO allies that spend 2% of GDP on defence,” he said, adding that both countries continue to share information and intelligence to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and prevent terrorist attacks.
In a recent interview with EurActiv.com, Greek premier Alexis Tsipras said: “The Greek debt is not an issue for optimism. It is a clear part of the agreement signed last July between Greece and its European partners.”
“We consistently implement all our commitments, in order to achieve a definitive exit from this crisis. It is, therefore, logical for the other side to implement as well its commitments with respect to an agreement about the viability of the Greek debt,” he added.
- Kathimerini: Obama: Greeks 'need hope'