• Greek finance minister Venizelos says Germany is pushing Athens out of the euro (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Bail-out delay prompts fear of Greek euro exit

16.02.12 @ 09:30

  1. By Valentina Pop
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BRUSSELS - Greece fears it is being pushed out of the euro after eurozone ministers delayed a decision on its second bail-out for another five days.

"We are continually faced with new terms ... In the euro area, there are plenty who don't want us anymore. There are some playing with fire, domestically and abroad. Some are playing with torches and some are playing with matches. But the risk is equally great," Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters in Athens on Wednesday (15 February) after a three-hour conference call with his 16 counterparts from the eurozone.

Greek politicians have pledged not to undo spending cuts after April elections and to find another €325 million of flesh to trim from the budget.

Bur eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker said "further technical work" is needed before the ministers can sign off on the €130 billion bail-out, most likely on Monday.

He said in an emailed statement after the Wednesday tele-meeting that ministers want to see "detailed list of prior actions together with a timeline for their implementation" and "specific mechanisms to strengthen the surveillance of programme implementation" put in place before the deadline.

Germany, Finland and the Netherlands have been at the forefront in demanding stronger reassurances that Athens sticks to its promises.

"We just need to be reassured 110 percent," one diplomat told this website after the conference call.

In Helsinki, Finnish finance minister Jutta Urpilainen said creditor countries have become "very strict" after Greece broke promisses on its first bail-out in 2010.

"Ultimately the question is whether Greece has political will to sort out its economy and fulfill the conditions," she said during a press conference.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble in the past few days has used harsh language on Athens.

On Sunday he told Die Welt "we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit" and that if Greece defaults on its debt the eurozone is "better prepared" now than two years ago. On Monday he said in Der Spiegel that Greece should "temporarily relinquish some of its sovereignty" if it wants more money.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok on Wednesday said Greek elections should be postponed for one year to let technocrats stay in power.

Such statements have produced strong reactions in Greece.

Greek EU commissioner Maria Damanaki told Tagesspiegel that her country's efforts are being underestimated "in certain European capitals."

German flags have been burned on the streets of Athens and banners, while some tabloids portrayed German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform.

Meanwhile, President Karolos Papoulias, who recently gave up his salary as a gesture of solidarity, told a meeting of military commanders this week: "I cannot accept that my country should be reviled by Schauble. I cannot accept this as a Greek. Who is Schauble to insult Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finnish?"