German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has told a newspaper that it 'would not be constructive' to approve Greece's second international rescue deal in installments. Instead, he said to expect a full decision Monday.
Germany's finance minister said in an interview printed on Sunday that it would make no sense to split the second package of emergency loans for Greece, after speculation that eurozone finance officials might consider a staggered deal on the 130-billion-euro ($171-billion) bailout.
"If Greece can implement all the necessary promises and reforms by the end of February and clears any other open questions, then the second aid package can be approved," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in an interview published in the Sunday edition of the Tagesspiegel daily. "I think that a staggered agreement or an agreement step by step would not be constructive."
Schäuble said instead that eurozone finance ministers "will decide on Monday over the entire program, which will then be implemented step by step." Finance ministers from the 17 members of the European single currency will gather in Brussels on Monday for another summit on Greece, with the clock ticking.
Greek bonds worth 14.5 billion euros mature on March 20; without international aid to meet these obligations, the country could face default. The government in Athens confirmed during the week that it would undertake further austerity measures designed to cut another 3.3 billion euros - prompting European optimism that a deal could be reached at Monday's meeting.
Sympathy for unhappy Greeks
The drastic cuts implemented by Greek leaders have prompted protests, widespread strikes and even some violence in Athens and elsewhere in recent months.
"I have great empathy for the Greek people," Schäuble said. "The vast majority of those hardest hit by the reforms and austerity measures - and let met again express my highest respect for them – have nothing to do with the backlog of reforms, the loss of competitiveness or the unproductive use of funds in the past."
Schäuble was particularly critical of wealthy Greek citizens who had found ways not to pay their taxes over the years, saying he could understand why many people on more modest incomes would "consider it anything but fair or just" when they were asked to plug the gaps.
Asked about the unpopular minimum wage reduction in Greece, Schäuble again expressed his understanding but sought to compare with other European countries.
"The Greek minimum wage is being lowered to roughly Spain's level," he said. "What's more, what should people in Eastern European or Baltic European countries think - when their minimum wages are still considerably lower and yet they are playing a part in supporting Greece?"
Schäuble, who was accused of insulting Greece by President Karolos Papoulias earlier in the week, refused to be drawn into that issue, opening the interview with Tagesspiegel simply by saying he presumed the president "must have got the wrong impression" about something.
msh/mz (AFP, Reuters)