Barack Obama asks eurozone to keep Greece in until after election day
US officials are worried that if Greece exits the eurozone, it will damage President's election hopes
Oliver Wright Friday 24 August 2012
The Obama administration will pressure European governments not to let Greece fall out of the eurozone before November's Presidential elections, British Government sources have suggested.
Representatives from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission are due to arrive in Athens next month to assess Greece's reform efforts.
They are expected to report in time for an 8 October meeting of eurozone finance ministers which will decide on whether to disburse Greece's next €31bn aid tranche, promised under the terms of the bailout for the country.
American officials are understood to be worried that if they decide Greece has not done enough to meet its deficit targets and withhold the money, it would automatically trigger Greece's exit from the eurozone weeks before the Presidential election on 6 November.
They are urging eurozone Governments to hold off from taking any drastic action before then – fearing that the resulting market destabilisation could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. European leaders are thought to be sympathetic to the lobbying fearing that, under pressure from his party lin Congress, Mitt Romney would be a more isolationist president than Mr Obama.
The President discussed the eurozone crisis with David Cameron during a conference call on Wednesday and both welcomed statements by the European Central Bank that it was "standing firmly behind the euro".
The ECB is expected to present a plan in the next few weeks to help indebted countries like Spain and Italy by buying their government bonds.
Today, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will travel to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, and to France tomorrow for talks with President François Hollande. He is asking that Greece be given more time to meet its deficit targets and implement its reforms as its economy is struggling through a fifth year of recession.
But Germany's Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said it was only months since creditors drew up a second bailout package and agreed on a massive debt write-down for Greece.
Britain is understood to have pressed the Germans to ensure that if eurozone leaders decide Greece's position is unsustainable the financial "firewall" around Spain and Italy is made stronger. Officials are worried that if Greece was to exit the eurozone, the move could result in dramatic increases in the cost of debt for other weaker eurozone members – making their financial situation unsustainable.