German minister rejects more time for Greece
BERLIN (AP) — Germany's economy minister has rejected calls for Greece to get more time to implement economic reforms, saying in an interview Sunday that Athens needs to respect the bailout deal reached with its international creditors.
Philipp Roesler's comments to ZDF public television come after a visit by Greece's prime minister to Berlin on Friday, during which Antonis Samaras told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his country needs "time to breathe" before it can make all the budget cuts and reforms demanded as part of its €240 billion ($300 billion) bailout packages.
"What the Greeks have asked for, half a year or two years, that's not doable," said Roesler, who is also the vice chancellor in Angela Merkel's coalition government. He added that "time is always money" and all parties had agreed that additional funds for Greece weren't up for debate.
Roesler, the leader of Germany's pro-business Free Democratic Party, has long taken a hard line on Greece. Last month, he caused an outcry in Greece by suggesting the idea of the country leaving the 17-nation eurozone had "lost its horror."
Those comments appeared to put him at odds with Merkel, who has always insisted that Greece should remain in the euro.
But his latest views on the need for Greece to stick to the agreed time plan for reforms were echoed by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told a newspaper in comments published Sunday that "more time generally means more money and that quickly means a new (bailout) program."
Merkel has so far shied away from making new promises to Greece. On Sunday, she dodged questions on the subject during an interview with German public TV station ARD. Instead, she insisted that "we are at a crucial moment in the fight against the debt crisis and that's why I think we should all weigh our words carefully."
The question of how to avert a Greek debt default, which could spark a chain reaction among other ailing European economies, has preoccupied EU leaders as they return from their traditional summer break.
French President Francois Hollande urged Greece on Saturday to do more to show its commitment to reforms, and offered the country no immediate hope for relief from its current regime of painful austerity measures. Like Merkel, Hollande said further decisions on Greece need to wait for a report next month by the country's debt inspectors.
Meanwhile, the respected German weekly Der Spiegel reported in its latest edition that Merkel wants EU leaders to forge ahead with deeper political integration within the unwieldy 27-nation bloc.
Merkel has long advocated closer political integration as a means of preventing the European project from unraveling under the strain caused by the eurozone crisis.
Asked about her plans, the chancellor told ARD television Sunday: "Our task now is to remove the founding mistakes of the currency union, namely the lack of political cooperation, and that's what we are going to discuss in the coming months."
She suggested that EU member state could be subject to closer budget scrutiny, and that measures such as tax harmonization could be up for discussion.