Tuesday

31st May 2016

Schaeuble: Greece has 'no alternative' to austerity

  • (Photo: World Economic Forum)

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday (14 January) urged Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras to drop his opposition to bailout-linked austerity measures, saying there is "no alternative" if Greece wants to stay in the eurozone.

It was the first time the veteran minister and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel received the young leftist leader, who has blamed Germany for the hardships which Greek people are enduring.

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"If there are disagreements, it is good to have a dialogue," Schaeuble's spokeswoman Silke Bruns told a press briefing on Monday morning.

After the meeting, the positions of the two men did not appear to have moved any closer, however.

According to one official, Schaeuble told Tsipras "unequivocally that there is no alternative to the path already taken, the implementation of an economic adjustment programme."

The German minister urged Tsipras to back the programme, which includes recently-passed changes on income tax which Tsipras' party, Syriza, voted against.

A recent upgrade by six notches in Standard & Poor's rating of Greek debt is proof the reforms are working, Schaeuble said.

For Tsipras, what matters more are the legions of unemployed people and hospital patients with inadequate care, whose situation, he said, is getting tougher each day as government slashes expenditure to please creditors and markets.

"Austerity is like a bad medicine for the patient. We have to stop austerity," he told this website on the eve of the meeting.

It was the same message he repeated in his talks with Schaeuble, he said afterwards.

Greece is currently in its sixth year of recession.

It has had two bailouts and a partial reduction of its debt. Unemployment is at almost 27 percent, suicide rates have gone up and the neo-Nazi "Golden Dawn" party is growing in popularity.

Finance ministers baulk at tax-avoidance rules

Member states will discuss again in June a proposed directive to outlaw practices used by large companies to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, the European Parliament makes progress on its probe of Panama Papers.

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