ATHENS (AFP) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew praised the “hard work” of Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday and urged his government to continue with economic reform.
Lew publicly declared his confidence in the conservative administration of Samaras following a meeting in Athens.
“Greece has gone through a difficult period of adjustment and reform,” said Lew.
“We recognize the difficult decisions and shared sacrifices in recent years, as well as the challenges that remain.
“I’m particularly pleased to see that your government is close to completing the current programme review and taking the difficult action necessary,” he continued. “The road is still challenging. We know you’re working hard to set Greece on a path of sustainable growth and prosperity.”
And he added: “I know you don’t want to leave this work unfinished.”
Lew made the stopover in the Greek capital following a G20 meeting in Moscow. He said he continues to “monitor” events in Greece.
On Friday he urged Europe’s leaders to reconsider their policies of austerity and do more to promote economic growth and employment.
His intervention came just days after Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister and a strong defender of the need to reduce deficits, visited Athens.
Debate on a sustainable level of austerity in Europe continues to divide the global economic community with the International Monetary Fund recently calling for more flexibility and a number of European countries, with Germany at their head, sticking to the need for budgetary control.
Lew said that “working with Europe remains at the top of my agenda because American jobs and growth are inextricably linked” to the situation on the continent.
His visit comes ahead of a White House meeting on August 8 between Samaras and President Barack Obama.
Samaras hopes to use the high-profile trip to reinforce his legitimacy at home, especially after the outrage caused by his government’s decision in June to close state television.
Despite the warm words from the Treasury Secretary, Greece faces a sombre reality of “unsustainable debt, a sixth successive year of recession and unemployment of 1.5 million”, Rena Dourou, a member of the radical left-wing opposition Syriza party, said in a statement.
Greek society, she said, was being “sacrificed by the obsession of Samaras, (former finance minister Evangelos) Venizelos and (current Finance Minister Yannis) Stournaras with balancing budgets.”