On his first visit to athens since the outbreak of the crisis, schauble praised greece for its progress in the fight against national bankruptcy. Athens has taken "major steps toward consolidating its economy," the CDU politician said immediately after the greek parliament passed the highly controversial new austerity laws last night. These provide above all for mass dismissals of state employees.
The greeks went through difficult times, but there was no other way, schauble stressed to the german-greek chamber of commerce in athens. During his visit, he also met head of government antonis samaras and his colleague ioannis stournaras. Schauble’s short visit took place under strict security precautions for fear of protests. For schauble is denounced by many greeks as a savings commissioner.
In the night to thursday, the government was only able to push through another groundbreaking austerity package in parliament with a very narrow majority. After two days of sometimes stormy debate, deputies approved legislation allowing the government to lay off 15,000 state employees. The dismantling of the excessive administration is one of the preconditions for further aid loans worth billions from international lenders.
Schauble again rejected a debt cut. He asked his discussion partners "not to continue this talk (debt cut)". It is not to their advantage. The debate on a further debt cut has been going on for weeks. This was prompted by projections by the international monetary fund (IMF) according to which, despite progress in the greek austerity program in 2014, additional aid requirements in the billions of euros are on the horizon.
There had been fierce protests against the new austerity program up to the last minute. On wednesday evening on ARD’s "tagesthemen" program, schauble showed understanding for the fact that many greeks were demonstrating against the conditions imposed by the lenders. "I can well understand that many greeks feel that way," he said. Many people there thought about the donors, "it’s their fault that we have to make these cuts". But this is not the case, said the finance minister. "We are helping the greeks yes, also europe as a whole."Nor was he "the upper troika".
In athens, the german finance minister announced germany’s participation in the creation of a growth fund. A memorandum to this effect was to be signed during the visit. Berlin holds out the prospect of 100 million euros for the greeks. The fund is to have a total of 500 million euros in capital and provide favorable loans, which are urgently needed by small and medium-sized enterprises in particular.
They suffer particularly from the rapid economic downturn. A slim ray of hope now seems to be emerging. Greece’s economy minister kostis chatzidakis expects 2013 to be the last year of recession for the troubled euro crisis country, as he told the "handelsblatt" newspaper (thursday).
Schauble also expressed confidence that the economy would soon be back on track for growth. "We are working side by side for this," he said. However, he warned that the crisis in the euro zone is not over yet. German finance minister calls on government to continue privatizations.
His counterpart, stournaras, said all eurozone members needed to get their finances under control. But the continuous outflow of capital from the south to the north is a cause for concern. With the austerity programs, greece "proves its faith in the european idea". What greece needs now is liquidity. This is also being created with the recapitalization of the country’s banks.
The greek press reacted differently to schauble’s visit: the left-wing newspaper "eleftherotypia" showed on its front page the downfall of the greek economy, triggered by the harsh austerity programs. "Mr. Schauble, here is your work: gross domestic product down 20.5, retail down 18 percent, construction down 67 percent," the paper headlined. And unemployment has now exceeded 27 percent. The conservative press, on the other hand, reported more objectively on schauble’s visit.
The greek opposition has repeatedly attacked schauble in recent months. Many greeks see the CDU politician as unwanted in their country. A demonstration against schauble was planned for the afternoon in a small square in athens. Police have banned demonstrations throughout the city center. Uberall was controlled. Schauble wanted to leave in the evening.
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