Greek finance minister rejects rumors of quitting euro zone | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.01.2010
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Greek finance minister rejects rumors of quitting euro zone

Despite a crippling fiscal crisis, sharp criticism from the European Central Bank and ongoing farmer protests, Greece's finance minister has denied his country will be the first to abandon the euro.

A European Union flag above the ancient Parthenon temple in Athens

Greece's deficit is among the highest in the euro zone

Speculation that Greece's fiscal crisis will force the country to abandon the euro is unfounded, according to Greek Finance Minister Georges Papaconstantinou.

"I categorically exclude that Greece will quit the euro zone," he said, as quoted by German daily Die Welt on Monday.

Despite Papaconstantinou's assertions, his country has received sharp criticism from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, who has demanded Greece do everything it can to put its budget in order.

"Never again will we accept national budgets that are not grounded in reality," Trichet told the German magazine Focus.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

Papandreou's government has the difficult task of lowering Greece's budget deficit

Greece's public sector deficit for 2009 was 12.7 percent of its gross domestic product, as forecast by the government. That's more than four times the target limit of 3 percent for the European Union's 27 member states.

Competing interests

The socialist-led government, elected last year with Georges Papandreou as prime minister, has pledged to cut spending and increase revenue through taxes. Yet demands of the stubborn labor sector have threatened the government's ability to make good on its promises.

Greek farmers have been protesting falling subsidies for two weeks now, using tractors to blockade 14 points along major roads. The farmers demand full payment of subsidies, which have been partially blocked by European Union officials pending a completed database on farm holdings.

"There is no money [to give] at this point," Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli said Sunday after meeting with the farmers.

The Greek government started a two-day meeting on agriculture and farm aid reform Monday.

Editor: Mark Hallam

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