In an interview with DW, Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb calls on Greece to extend its bailout program, saying European solidarity is at stake.
Heads of state and government are meeting in Brussels to discuss Greece's financial future. On Wednesday, the finance ministers of the Eurogroup were unable to reach agreement with the new Greek finance minister on how to go forward. Greece obviously does not want an extension of the bailout programs that have been in place up to now, instead proposing an ill-defined kind of “bridge financing” scheme until June. Nations that have been donors up to now perceive this to be a snub. One of these countries is Finland.
Prime Minister Stubb, Finland has until now helped with the financial rehabilitation of Greece. How much patience do you have left with the Greeks?
Alexander Stubb: At this point, we have very little patience to spare. Finland has provided a loan of a billion euros ($1.4 billion). Bear in mind that our entire state budget is only 53 billion euros. So we are not talking about trifles here. We think that Greece should definitely keep to its contracts and obligations. That is what European integration is about. If one country were to break with its obligations, it would be unfair to those who have paid. And it would also be unfair to countries that already had to undergo difficult adjustment programs, such as Ireland, Portugal and Spain. We expect the Greeks to do their bit.
What do you have to offer Greece? Is there room for a compromise?
The compromise is very simple. They could receive an extension of the current bailout program, which in our opinion would be in Greece's best interests. But then they would have to push on with their structural reforms. The body monitoring these structural reforms is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF has 70 years of experience with situations like this. I don't think we should allow any scope for populism in Europe. We have obligations and contracts, and we must stick by them.
Greece seems to be prepared to risk a showdown. Is time running out to find a solution?
Yes, of course. We need an agreement next Monday, because this would give the German parliament, for example, enough time to look at extending the program and coming to a possible arrangement. The same goes for the Finnish parliament. We have helped Greece over the past five years. We will continue to do so, because it is in our own interest and because it is a matter of European solidarity. But no one should be under any illusions. We are not going to start setting up free programs, or giving free rides. Obligations have to be kept.
Alexander Stubb (46) has been Finnish prime minister since June 2014. The conservative politician was previously the minister for European and foreign affairs, and a member of the European Parliament.