Greek Prime Minister Samaras Will Miss EU Summit After Eye Operation

Antonis Samaras

Photo: Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will not be well enough to travel to a critical European Union summit in Brussels after undergoing an eye operation, the government said Sunday.Samaras, 61, underwent surgery for a detached retina Saturday, just three days after being sworn in at the head of a three-party coalition government formed after two inconclusive general elections.

The doctor treating him, Panagiotis Theodosiadis, has ruled out him being able to travel to Brussels for the June 28-29 summit, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said.

Samaras has appointed new Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos to head the Greek delegation at the meeting, Kedikoglou said.

Greece’s incoming finance minister, Vassilis Rapanos, was also hospitalized Friday after suffering a collapse. But as his swearing in had to be postponed due to his ill-health, outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias still holds the title and will attend the summit.

Zanias, who was a key negotiator for Greece’s bailout deal before being named to the post, will be accompanied by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Alternative Finance Minister Christos Staikouras.

The summit would have been a key test of Samaras’ pledges to renegotiate some terms of its international bailout.

Greece has been dependent since May 2010 on funds from two international rescue loan deals with other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund, in return for which it imposed a series of deep spending cuts and tax hikes.

Anti-bailout parties made massive gains in Greece’s May 6 and June 17 elections, with Greeks furious at the drop in living standards by measures that have left the country struggling through a fifth year of recession and sent unemployment spiraling to above 22 per cent.

Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party came first in both elections, but without enough votes to govern alone. Coalition talks collapsed after 10 days in May, leading to the second ballot.

New Democracy is now in a power-sharing government with longtime socialist PASOK rivals and the small Democratic Left.

The new government on Saturday issued a policy statement outlining what it aims to change in its bailout conditions, saying it would seek to repeal some taxes, halt layoffs and extend by two years the mid-2014 deadline for tough austerity measures.

“The general aim is no more cuts to salaries and pensions, no more taxes,” the statement said, adding the government would not carry out any public sector layoffs.

Whether the government can deliver on its pledges will depend on how they are viewed by Greece’s international creditors. Germany, the largest single contributor to the bailout, has repeatedly said Athens must stick to its austerity targets.

Debt inspectors from the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF were due to return to Athens on Monday to review the country’s fiscal situation and resume talks that had been put on hold during the country’s nearly two-month political deadlock.

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