ATHENS, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Greece is getting closer and closer to turn to the International Monetary Fund seeking help to solve the serious economic crisis that has hit the country, according to statements by Greek officials and reports in the local media on Wednesday.
As Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou visits Brussels on Wednesday, the feeling of disappointment for the stance of fellow EU partners has been strengthened in Athens. The latest Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings in Brussels which were held on Monday and Tuesday ended with no concrete support to Greece.
"The problem does not concern only Greece. It is an issue for the whole Europe. Apparently, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has problems of her own. She needs something that will help her in the coming elections," Greek President Karolos Papoulias commented on Wednesday in a rare reference to foreign leaders, as many Greek analysts claim clearly now that due to Germany's objections mainly, Greece has not gained enough support from EU yet.
Most Greek newspapers stressed the suggestion of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Scheuble that Greece declares bankruptcy first to get more aid, in order to overcome technicalities due to the German Constitution. Athens replies that the Greek economy is far away from that point.
Papoulias declined to give a clear answer to the question whether Greece will stay with EU or turn to IMF after all, but cabinet members moved from the hints given in the past few days to more open statements.
"Greece today has a possibility of up to 70 percent to turn to IMF," Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli said, adding that the latest developments confirmed that spreads are not affected by the austerity measures and the Stability and Growth Program.
"We presented our suggestions to EU bravely, stressing that Greece is a member state of the eurozone, but we have also stressed that we are not willing to borrow again with such high interest rates," Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou commented on Wednesday, following similar statements made by Papandreou recently.
"If we will be offered again loans on 6.5 percent interest rates, why we should not turn to IMF? Europeans must realize that we are not the culprits, but the victims," Giorgos Karatzaferis, the president of the far- Right LAOS party said, supporting the socialist government regarding such a choice.
Main opposition centre-right New Democracy party Antonis Samaras on the other hand who will be in Brussels on March 25, the day of the crucial EU summit, insisted on the European solution, while the two political parties of the Left which participate in the parliament object to both solutions, claiming that the result would be the same, as poor Greeks will be asked to make the sacrifices.
As Athens weighs the advantages and disadvantages of turning to IMF, the government is under pressure to get loans reaching up to 40 billion euros by June and not only 25 billion euros as estimated before, according to reports by Greek media such as "TA NEA" daily (The News), which are based on government sources.
According to the scenario, the Greek government could make a deal with the IMF during the Easter holidays, when many markets will be closed, in order to avoid strong reactions and turbulences.
Theoretically, a turn to IMF will not harm EU-Greece relations and does not mean Greece will leave the eurozone, as stressed in the article. But the country will most probably have to take more austerity measures. With the exception of Iceland, wherever across Europe IMF was called to intervene, social unrest would be followed, the report concludes.
"Papandreou raises the flag of IMF," is printed on the front page of "Eleftherotypia" daily (Free Press) on Wednesday. "Germans have already estimated that the result of the forthcoming EU summit on March 25 will be negative fro Greece. Berlin waits until Greece will be pushed to the edge of the cliff by speculative games to care for a poor partner. This is not solidarity. If they keep asking for more austerity measures, there will be social unrest in Greece which will spread across Europe. Then no plan could save the EU" is underlined in an editorial.
"While the terms for Greece, if the IMF path is chosen, would not be very different than a European solution, such a move would signal a defeat for Europeans. They would not like to admit that IMF is often the only real solution. Maybe Greece will eventually choose a hybrid solution, uniting the IMF and the EU. But this uncertainty has already deeply unsettled the markets and the banking sector, which, whether we like it or not, are the backbones of economy," Alexis Papahelas, chief editor of " Kathimerini" daily, commented.
"European leaderships are indecisive up to a suicidal degree. They refuse to see that the small 2.5 percent Greek economy represents in the Eurozone is too big to be left on its destiny, as trouble could spread and cause more damage than the money needed today to save Greece. The country needs support from abroad. But not any kind of support. We hope Europe will make the right decisions on March 25 and we will not have to resort to IMF. Otherwise, the problem will not only be solved, but it will get worse", Panos Panagiotou, a respected political analyst in Greece, stressed in an article at "Ethnos" (Nation) newspaper.