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Crisis-hit EU will prevail, says Schäuble

The European Union will prevail, despite its 60th birthday crises, predicts German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. He's also criticized Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for intimating that Greece will get more money.

Schäuble told public Deutschlandradio Friday that the necessity for the EU to stand together was just as relevant as it was 60 years ago when Europe was emerging from the trauma of Second World War.

The veteran conservative in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition cabinet was referring to celebrations due Saturday of the 1957 Treaty of Rome that created the European Economic Community, the bloc's six-nation precursor.

Schäuble said the EU's institutions were currently "in a difficult situation" but would prevail.

"The idea that Europe must stand together, that only jointly do we have a chance - and no longer be opposed to one another, especially at a time when in America it's being obviously discussed whether America wants to or can have a leadership role - this (European) idea is still strong and will win through, " Schäuble said.

"The Mediterranean, the Far and Middle East - that is our direct neighborhood, just like Ukraine; and these are giant European tasks, and no one can master them alone - neither the Germans nor the French. But together we can manage it well," he added.

Gabriel sent 'wrong' message

Schäuble went on to accuse German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of sending the "completely wrong message" by suggesting during his visit to Athens on Thursday that Europe could "pay more" to assist debt-laden Greece.

"That won't help Greece, but will instead lead to the politicians responsible in Greece believing that they don't have to make the necessary efforts to which they have obligated themselves. That is the danger," he warned.

"We have assumed liability for large sums of risks for Greece. But, in return, it is Greece's task … to reform its economy so that it becomes competitive," to fix its administration so that it conforms with modern standards.

"Providing help, yes, but not into a bottomless barrel," said Schäuble, adding that Europe as a whole could invest money to ensure its future viability but only where it was sensible to do so and only when every member nation exerted itself.

Barnier well prepared

Asked what goals the EU should set for its negotiations with Britain over its intended departure or Brexit, Schäuble replied that the rest of Europe should not let itself be "infected."

"It's not pick and choose," Schäuble said. "If Britain still wants to have access to the internal market then it must assume the corresponding obligations."

Leading EU negotiator Michael Barnier and his team had prepared themselves "extraordinarily well," Schäuble added.

Britain would encounter a negotiating partner that would energetically represent the interests of Europe, Schäuble said.

Tsipras demands inclusion

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday urged EU leaders - who will sign a 60th anniversary declaration this weekend - to ensure that it includes specific references to social standards and labor rights.

In a letter sent to EU leaders as well as the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU President Donald Tusk, Tsipras said Greece needed clear assurances that passages on social and labor policy would be included.

Greece remains in the midst of tough talks with auditors from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on fresh cuts to unblock promised loans.

ipj/kms (AFP, dradio, Reuters)

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