Samaras Says Merkel Offered Temporary Greece Eurozone Exit

FILE - Former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

ATHENS – Greece’s former premier Antonis Samaras, who was in the midst of one of the country’s most tumultuous economic times in 2012, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a recess from the Eurozone during a meeting in Berlin.

Samaras, who was head of the New Democracy Conservatives, told SKAI TV in a series entitled Greek Bankruptcy that the tense discussion came Aug. 24 that year, six months after he had agreed to a second bailout for Greece, this one for 130 billion euros ($145.48 billion) to keep the economy afloat.

It noted how tense the times were, saying “No one outside Greece believed we would make it,” as he reneged on anti-austerity promises and like his predecessor, then-PASOK Socialist leader George Papandreou, sought a rescue package.

After showing him some slides demonstrating the still sinking Greek economy, continuing to fail despite a first bailout in 2010 of 110 billion euros ($123.10 billion,) Merkel told him, he said: “‘Look, I want to tell you something that you should know from now. The journey you have to make is very difficult. If you want Greece to leave the euro, then you should know that we have an alternative plan that will help you for a period of time, which we can figure out.’”

He said he put a full stop to the idea. “I stopped her straight away and said: ‘We are not having this conversation. This is not happening. I don’t accept it. There is no way I will ever accept Greece leaving the Eurozone. You can forget it.’”

He said he didn’t tell anyone about the conversation until now as he thought it would have rattled the markets just when Greece didn’t need any potential chaos with the economy wobbly despite the then-recent second bailout.

He said the Radical Left SYRIZA said the idea of a Greek exit from the Eurozone was scaremongering by the country’s creditors. But when the Leftists’ leader Alexis Tsipras took power in 2015, toppling a Samaras-led coalition with PASOK, he floated the idea of a so-called Grexit in an attempt to get the lenders to back down from austerity but failed and sought a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($96.24 billion.)