Chatzimarkakis: ′A slap in the face for Greece′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.07.2012
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Chatzimarkakis: 'A slap in the face for Greece'

EU parliamentarian Jorgo Chatzimarkakis has warned about the consequences of a Greek exit from the euro. In a DW interview, he makes strong accusations against his party colleague, German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler.

DW: Mr. Chatzimakakis, the German Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler does not appear to have a lot of trust left in Greece. He hardly gives the country any chance of staying in the eurozone. Do you agree with the opinion of your Free Democratic Party colleague?

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: Not at all. I don't hold it for good governmental behavior to make such a statement on the day before the troika of the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund were due to arrive in Athens and garner an overview.

A general secretary of a Bavarian provincial party [such as the CSU] - even if it is a governing party - can do that. But a vice chancellor can not do that. A vice chancellor is entitled to express his opinion, but with that he has already given the thumbs down before any kind of verdict has been reached.

Rösler is not alone - the chorus of Greece's critics is becoming ever louder. The International Monetary Fund appears unwilling to provide any more credit beyond that which has already been agreed. The situation is becoming increasingly serious.

German Economic Minister Philipp Rösler

Rösler's comments came just before the arrival of the troika in Greece

There is such pressure being created and such a weight of expectation placed on the Greeks, that actually no options remain other than the dissolution of the eurozone. Because, naturally, it won't stop at a Greek exit. If one country leaves the eurozone then others must follow. The situation in Spain is reaching crisis point. And the situation in Italy hasn't improved. All those who are ratcheting up the pressure are pushing Germany in to a divided eurozone and with that, putting those who depend on exports in a very difficult situation. We will find ourselves with a hard and a soft monetary zone. We could have prevented it, but we didn't!

Could it not be the case that Greece exits the euro but the eurozone remains intact?

Greece can't be forced to leave. It must be a voluntary Greek exit. However, if Greece were to be forced and there was no other option, then confidence in the future of the eurozone would be massively shaken.

I'm absolutely convinced that what I've just described is what will happen. Every further move in this direction will dismantle the eurozone. If some people want that, then they'll also have to take responsibility for it.

You have good contact with Greece. How do you think these reports are being received there?

I'm currently in Greec, and I can say that the comments made by Mr Rösler are being discussed intensively and lead to more concern. What it not understood here is the timing of his comments, precisely on the day before the arrival of the troika. Chancellor Merkel knows why she does not make such comments, just as the finance minister does. The Vice Chancellor resolved to make these comments and will provoke reactions with them.

Right now, Greek politicians are fighting to implement measures which were unfortunately not introduced during the election period, and are now hastily implementing. For them it's a slap in the face. Especially for the new Finance Minister Stournaras, who really is doing all he can to put things in order. Remember that Prime Minster Adonis Samaras used police and military force against strikers in an important Greek industry. Things like that weren't done before. I've been positively surprised by the new Greek government. They're really fighting for reforms. Because of that, in my opinion, it is really irresponsible, in such a situation, for such comments to come from Germany - the country which has most influence in the eurozone, but is also most dependent on it.

The troika is in Greece to investigate the reforms in Athens. Are the measures which have already been implemented sufficient? There are critics who say that the measure introduced by the Greek government won't be enough.

Police detain an anti-austerity protester during an operation to remove a small group of European demonstrators from central Syntagma Square in Athens May 15, 2012. Anger against austerity has spread across Europe and Greek police detained a small about 10 anti-austerity activists from France and other European countries on Tuesday who had slept overnight on the main Athens square in front of parliament. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis (GREECE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST BUSINESS)

The Greek government has pushed reforms despite protests

I did not say that the reforms have gone far enough. I said that during the election period they were completely put on hold, and that the new government, which has only been in office for a matter of weeks, has undertaken astounding steps. The country needs these reforms. It was irresponsible of the Greeks to dismiss the reform package so contemptuously from the outset. Many of the measures for reform, for example the privatization and the cuts in the public sector, are necessary for survival. Now the reforms are being implemented and we should allow the Greeks the time to do that. However the troika will also take in to account what has happened in the past few days. That's why it was so absolutely vital to wait for their report before allowing such a tough statement to come from the German government.

Georgios "Jorgo" Chatzimarkakis has been a German liberal member of the European Parliament since July 2004. Chatzimarkakis was born in Germany and has Greek heritage.

Interview: Ralf Bosen / hw

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