Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Merkel hints at future 'haircut' on Greek debt

  • Merkel - Governments may in the future take a writedown on Greek debt, but not yet (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted Sunday that governments will likely have to take a loss on the Greek debt they own, breaking what was considered a taboo in German politics.

Choosing the influential mass-selling tabloid Bild am Sonntag to make the admission, Merkel said in two years time a "haircut" should be considered for Greece.

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"If Greece one day again manages with its revenue without getting new debt, then we must look at and assess the situation," she said. "That is not the case before 2014-15 if everything goes according to plan."

The statement represents a significant shift for Berlin which has until now avoided entering the politically risky territory of saying that taxpayers will be affected by Greece's debt problems.

Germany itself will hold federal elections in autumn next year but Merkel denied that the two year timeframe for giving Athens further debt relief had anything to do with the German ballot box.

Taking on her critics she said that forcing Greece to leave the eurozone would cost "much more money" that bailing it out. “We need to avoid all this uncertainty.”

The Bild interview came as critics at home have increasingly been accusing the chancellor of hiding the full cost of the Greek bailout.

The German parliament Friday passed the latest eurozone deal to give Greece a two-year extension on its aid programme and another tranche (€44bn) of bailout money.

However, in a reminder that not everyone is happy about her handling of the Greek situation, 23 MPs from her governing coalition voted against the move. The rebels denied Merkel the symbolically important absolute majority within her own ranks.

Meanwhile Eurozone finance ministers will Monday (3 December) discuss details of a bond buyback scheme, a central part last week's deal on Greece.

The scheme to buy back debt from private investors opened early on Monday morning and will run until 7 December. Greek Finance minister Yannis Stournaras is to present details to his colleagues in the evening.

Under the deal, holders of Greek debt will be given the chance to swap their bonds for up to €10bn of six-month bills, the Greek finance ministry said in a statement early Monday morning.

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