G8 leaders call on Greece to stay in euro

G8 leaders said they want debt-stricken Greece to stay in the eurozone at a Camp David summit, as the group papered over deep-seated divisions about how best to tackle the eurozone crisis.

With the future of Europe’s currency union in doubt, leaders of the world’s largest economies called on Greece at the weekend to stick to the terms of a massive EU-IMF cash-for-reforms bailout, which is hanging by a thread.

“We agree on the importance of a strong and cohesive eurozone for global stability and recovery,” a final G8 joint communique stated. “We affirm our interest in Greece remaining in the eurozone while respecting its commitments.”

May 6 polls saw Greek anti-austerity parties on top, casting doubt on Athens’ commitment to reforms and raising the question for its partners of whether to ease up on austerity or turn off the bailout spigot.

The latter course would almost certainly lead to a Greek default and exit from the eurozone, sparking global panic. Tensions are rising ahead of new polls on June 17 which are not guaranteed to produce a viable government.

The latest opinion poll yesterday in Greece gave the radical left Syriza party, opposed to the bailout, 28% of the vote, with the conservative New Democracy, which supported the deal, 24%.

A poll last Friday put Syriza in second with 21%, behind New Democracy on 23.1%, but sentiment is volatile as most Greeks want to keep the euro but cannot stomach endless austerity after years in recession.

Syriza head Alexis Tsipras is, meanwhile, due to visit Paris and Berlin next week for talks with leftist European leaders, including Jean-Luc Melanchon, who polled strongly in the French presidential elections which brought Francois Hollande to power earlier this month on a pledge to support growth.

The drama in Greece and growing voter unease in European powerhouses France and Germany pushed the eurozone crisis to the top of the G8 summit agenda.

President Obama noted leaders’ agreement that growth and jobs must take precedence over austerity. “As all of the leaders here today agree, growth and jobs must be our top priority. The direction the debate has taken recently should give us confidence that Europe is taking significant steps to manage the crisis.”


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