Troika to meet, but Greek report not done: Germany

TIME CONSTRAINTS::Germany’s finance minister said Athens’ lenders were unlikely to finish a report for the meeting to decide on Greece’s next EU aid tranche

Reuters, BERLIN

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 15

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the troika of international lenders to Athens was unlikely to deliver a full report in time for today’s eurozone finance ministers meeting and that talks over Greek budget controls continued.

Schaeuble echoed his recent comments about Greece in an interview with German paper Welt am Sonntag, published on the eve of the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels where the main topic will be unfreezing lending to Athens.

“At the moment it does not look as if we will have a finished, complete troika report on Monday, especially given that the Greek parliament is only agreeing the budget on Sunday,” he said in the interview published yesterday.

Greece passed a structural reform package in parliament on Wednesday and was due yesterday to vote through an austerity budget for next year.

However, time pressure for a deal is growing as Athens has to redeem 5 billion euros (US$6.4 billion) worth of treasury bills on Friday and has been counting on cash from the next eurozone aid tranche to help cover that.

“We in the Eurogroup and in the IMF want to help Greece, but we will not let ourselves be put under pressure,” the German finance minister told the newspaper.

“We are not responsible for the time pressure, all parties involved have been aware of this deadline for a long time,” Schaeuble said. “No one in the eurozone has a problem with agreeing to the payment of the next tranche, but only when the conditions have been fulfilled ... and that is up to the government in Athens.”

The minister said the troika — the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — had in the past made a “very optimistic” assessment of the situation in Greece, making him all the more keen for a realistic review this time around.

However, he still felt there was a path for Greece within the eurozone, even if it would be hard, “because the neglect of many decades must be made up for.”

The German government and parliament could discuss the finished troika report, he said.

“If we are already so ambitious and successful, I think we must also fulfill our European and global duties,” Schaeuble said. “Therefore I cannot step on the brakes in an even more radical way.”

Schaeuble, who has been dogged by health problems, also told the newspaper he would run he would run for election again for the German Bundestag lower house of parliament next year, and would not exclude another term in the German Cabinet.

Wheelchair-bound since he was shot by a deranged man a week after German unification, the 70-year-old conservative is one of the country’s most respected politicians, at home and abroad and committed to European unity.

“I have decided to stand for election again for the Bundestag,” he told the newspaper.