Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

EU seeks to defuse Greek debt row

A man reads the front pages of three Greek newspapers critical of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble(AP)

The EU has sought to defuse the row between Greece and some eurozone countries over its bailout bid.

Politicians from Germany and the Netherlands have lashed out at policymakers in Athens, questioning their promises to implement far-reaching cuts and reforms in return for a second, 130 billion euro (£109 billion) bailout.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, struck a conciliatory tone.

"I would like to salute the courage of the Greek government and the Greek people in these very challenging times and I would hope that the members of the European Union will accept the commitments given by Greece."

The comments are sure to strike a chord in Greece, where resentment has been mounting over what many see as the humiliation of the country and the hardship brought on by increasing demands from the country's creditors that have left the country in the fifth year of recession.

Eurozone nations want assurances that Greece will repay its bailout loans if it is extended another rescue package. After the Greek government faced down violent riots on Sunday and voted through a contentious austerity plan, eurozone ministers imposed further conditions.

The delay to the bailout agreement even after Athens has fulfilled these demands have frayed nerves. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble further rankled Greeks when he urged the country to postpone its general elections, tentatively set for April, to make sure the current government has time to implement reforms.

"We are very much aware of our responsibility for Greece and the Greek people. But, as I have also said, we can help, but we can't pour into a bottomless pit," Schaeuble said in an interview.

The comments caused outrage in Greece, where President Karolos Papoulias lashed back. "I will not accept my country to be disparaged by Mr. Schaeuble," he said Wednesday during an event at the defence ministry. "Who is Mr. Schaeuble to disparage Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns? We always had the pride to defend not just our freedom, not just our country, but the freedom of Europe," he said.

Eurozone ministers are due to meet on Monday to decide on the bailout.