Greeks making 'great sacrifices', PM tells Merkel

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday that his people were making "great sacrifices" to beat the country's debt crisis and restore confidence.

Samaras, who was in Berlin to attend a business conference, told reporters ahead of "informal" talks at Merkel's chancellery that his country was rolling out crucial reforms, even as average Greeks bear the brunt of the transition.

"I would like to make clear from the start that our country is making an enormous effort, which goes hand-in-hand with great sacrifices, to get things on the right track," he said, flanked by the German leader.

"We are trying to win back credibility -- credibility on the part of the peoples of Europe and on the part of the markets."

Samaras trumpeted a "series of systematic measures" to "guarantee that we do the best possible to put things right, above all to ensure liquidity, which is the life's blood of a healthy economy".

"Those are, together with investments, the two elements that are crucial for our country -- a country that is truly suffering a lot, above all in the grips of unemployment, especially among young people," he said.

Merkel said that she and Samaras would discuss what kind of headway Athens was making on putting its fiscal house in order, as well as challenges faced by Germany, Europe's top economy.

"I am interested in hearing about progress on the implementation of the Greek reform programme and on the other hand to report what kind of economic situation we in Germany expect because we too must do everything we can to ensure economic growth and thus job security," she said.

Merkel is a widely hated figure in Greece for demanding painful budget cuts in exchange for European aid and faced sometimes violent protests during a visit to Athens in October to meet Samaras.

Last month, European Union leaders agreed to provide 49.1 billion euros ($63.9 billion) in aid in return for more austerity measures.

Greece has already received 34.3 billion euros of this package and is poised to obtain another 9.2 billion euros at the end of this month if key fiscal reforms are carried out, followed by two more slices of 2.8 billion euros in February and March.

Germany, Europe's effective paymaster, has been bracing for an economic slowdown this year, as it heads into a general election likely to be held in September in which Merkel is widely expected to win a third term.

In October, Berlin slashed its forecast for growth of the economy for this year to just 1.0 percent.

Merkel and Samaras said they would also discuss ambitious proposals for moves towards greater economic coordination in the European Union, a debate on which was postponed last month until June.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy has said he would present a report on the plans to leaders in June, as well as proposing that national governments sign up to pacts with the EU on reforms.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Merkel said.

Samaras added: "We are going to undergo great changes in the European Union, changes toward greater unity in many specific areas."

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