Greece faces EU grilling over catastrophic deficit | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.01.2010
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Greece faces EU grilling over catastrophic deficit

The EU is increasingly worried about Greece's financial troubles affecting the stability of the euro currency. Next week, Brussels is to vet Athens' crisis plan put forward to solve the country's serious fiscal problems.

Greek flag

Could the crisis force Greece out of the eurozone?

Greece is under mounting pressure from the EU to take drastic action to restore its public finances. The country's public spending deficit rose to 12.7 percent last year - far above the three percent permitted by the eurozone countries.

The government in Athens on Thursday presented a crisis plan to get public spending back under control. The three-year blueprint aims at bringing the public deficit to 8.7 percent in 2010 and eventually down to 2.8 percent by 2012.

The plan was submitted to EU on Friday and next week will be examined by the EU commission.

On Monday, the eurozone's economy ministers will meet while on Thursday a meeting of all 27 EU economy ministers is scheduled.

Strong criticism from Berlin

The fiasco of Greek's public finances is putting a severe strain on the eurozone and has sparked a debate on whether Athens could even be forced to abandon the single currency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel broke from standard discourse this week when she pointed out her grave concerns over Athens' financial troubles.

"The Greece example is putting us under great, great pressure," she said. "The euro is in a very difficult phase for the coming years."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Merkel was unusually frank in her comments about Greece

Merkel subsequently was quick to say she didn't mean any direct criticism, but her somber tone expressed a concern shared by many of her colleagues across Europe.

There are worries that Athens' fiscal problems could threaten the credibility of the eurozone and could be a precursor to similar debt crises in weaker European economies.

Greece's credit rating has been downgraded by all major international rating agencies and financial analysts have cast doubt on whether Athens will be able to implement its rigorous austerity plan. The country's powerful unions have already announced strikes to protest the measures.

No special assistance

Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker warned that "it would be false to let Greece believe the other eurozone countries will help it resolve its problems."

In a similar vein, European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet told Athens that help from the EU would be very limited.

"No government, no state can expect from us any special treatment. The problem is not to get help, the problem is to help oneself," he said.

Georgios Papandreou

Greek PM Papandreou was elected last October and inherited a huge budget deficit

Trichet, however dismissed the notion that Greece could be forced out from the eurozone because of its debt crisis. He described suggestions that Athens might resign or be expelled as an "absurd hypothesis."

The European Commission is expected to give its verdict on the Greek crisis plan by late January and will then forward it to the bloc's economy commissioner, who will have to give the final approval.

The Greek plan promises to cut welfare spending, reform taxation, battle tax evasion and save on public sector wages.

"We will achieve fiscal consolidation within three years, we will do everything it takes for this," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said, expressing his confidence when presenting the plan to parliament. "We can do it, this target is feasible."


Editor: Kyle James

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