22nd Feb 2020

EU parliament chief attacks Merkel 'Grexit' talk

  • Schulz said EU interference could provoke a backlash by Greek voters (Photo:

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has spoken out against German speculation on Greece leaving the euro.

Leading German media this week reported that chancellor Angela Merkel had said if the far-left Syriza party wins snap elections in Greece it would likely force the debt-ridden country to quit the single currency.

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The German government has refuted the comments.

But Schulz, in an interview published in the German daily Die Welt on Wednesday (7 January) lashed out at the Merkel scenario, describing her imputed euro-exit talk as “irresponsible”.

He also warned EU states and institutions against interfering in the Greek democratic process.

"It should be clear to everyone: There is no question of a withdrawal from the euro”, he said.

“The unsolicited comments which give the people of Greece the idea that it's not for them to decide their future via their votes, but up to Brussels or Berlin could even push electors into the arms of radical forces”.

Greece has suffered from years of high unemployment and next-to-no growth despite two bailouts worth €240 billion from a “troika” of international lenders - the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

It has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 170 percent, amid behind-the-scenes talks on a possible third bailout worth €30 billion.

The loans come with strings attached in the form of austerity measures.

But polls indicate the anti-austerity Syriza could oust the centre-right government in elections at the end of this month.

Syriza head Alexis Tsipras has said he wants to stay in the euro.

But his comments on writing off part of the troika debt have spooked investors, with Greek stock markets hitting historic lows in the run-up to the 25 January vote.

The German controversy aside, the European Commission in early December also waded into Greek politics.

The snap election was triggered because Greek PM Antonis Samaris failed to get his presidential candidate, Stavros Dimas, into office despite the commission’s endorsements.

On Monday, the EU executive refrained from further comments on the election.

But it referred media to statements made by Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic affairs, late last year.

“Through this democratic process, the Greek people will once again decide on their future,” Moscovici said in December.

"A strong commitment to Europe and broad support among the Greek voters and political leaders for the necessary growth-friendly reform process will be essential for Greece to thrive again within the euro area".


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