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Eurozone crisis

Schäuble 'very skeptical' over Greek debt talks

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has expressed serious doubts that the row over Greece's debts will be resolved on Monday when eurozone finance chiefs meet in Brussels.

"After what I've heard … I am very skeptical," Schäuble told German state radio Deutschlandfunk on Monday morning as the Eurogroup finance ministers prepared to meet later in the day.

The German finance minister also accused the new Greek government of acting "pretty irresponsibly," though he underlined that he did not want Greece out of the single currency.

"We don't want that," he said, adding that Greece needed to do what it could to meet its own requirements. "The problem is that Greece has lived beyond its means for a long time and nobody wants to give Greece money anymore without guarantees."

Schäuble also said negotiations with his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis were not about reaching a "compromise for compromise's sake," but about helping Greece become competitive once again without external help.

"They were on the right path, up until the new government said they didn't want to do all that," Schäuble complained. "Instead it has been insulting those who have helped Greece in the past few years."

No deal

Schäuble also said he had no time for Greece's calls for a European-wide social welfare program whose costs should be shared by all members.

"No, that's a waste of time," he said. "In the long term, you can't keep on working on the assumption that others will always pay more."

Greece has been offered similar words of warning from other European governments. In an interview with German broadcaster ZDF, Austria's Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling said the new Greek government still appeared to be in "election mode not working mode."

But Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron urged the Eurogroup ministers to find a solution this week.

"What is required between Greece and the eurozone is not a stand-off, but a solution," Cameron said last week - a sentiment echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Eurogroup's finance ministers will meet on Monday to try to find a way out of the impasse over Greece's spiraling debts, which have increased since the "troika" of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission imposed an austerity program on the country.

But time is running out. Analysts fear Athens could run out of money within weeks if the financial taps are turned off.

A first attempt by the eurozone to strike a new deal with Varoufakis late last Wednesday was fruitless, with the two sides failing even to agree on steps to take before their next negotiating attempt on Monday.

bk/cjc (Reuters, dpa)

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