The Greek government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is effectively being told by its EU partners that time is money.
The Greek Prime Minister had sought to achieve greater wiggle room in the austerity that he must impose on this countryman by seeking more time – approximately 2 years – to administer the harsh medicine.
He was rebuffed in no uncertain terms by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said that more time meant more money and Germany had already gone to the limit in staking a Greek recovery. The minister distinguished between helping the Greeks and throwing money "into a bottomless pit."
As Samaras is slated to meet this weekend with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in an attempt to plead his case, this rebuff has put him on notice not to get his hopes up. Hollande and Merkel are meeting beforehand to shore up a common position on the Greek crisis.
The longer the Greek problem remains unresolved, the harder it will be to set things right as Germany is about a year away from a general election and German patience with European bailouts is wearing thin.
A formal answer to Athens is going to be delivered next month, when the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank has completed its assessment of how well Greece is doing in implementing the conditions that it took upon itself to secure a bailout. However, German opinion has hardened. The head of the Christian Democrats in the Bundestag, Volker Kauder, remarked that a renegotiation was to all extent a third aid package - and as far as he was concerned there was no room for maneuver.
An additional complication for the Greeks is that the contraction of the Greek economy as a result of the austerity has made the goalposts more distant. Samaras was complaining about having to cut expenditures by €11.5 billion, but the decline in tax receipts means that he will end up having to chop €14 billion.