Germany says Greek program already flexible enough

3 March 2016
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Despite media reports that Greece’s creditors could ease some of the pressure over the stalled bailout negotiations due to the refugee crisis, the likelihood of that happening is rather limited, German officials insisted this week.

“What has been agreed must be implemented,” German Finance Ministry spokesperson Friederike von Tiesenhausen told Kathimerini on Wednesday, adding that the financial and refugee crisis are two separate issues.

Athens and its creditors face an impasse over the bailout negotiations and how Greece can close a fiscal gap in compliance with the deal struck with the European Commission,the European Central Bank and the IMF.

A major stumbling block has been the reform of Greece’s troubled pension system. Failing to reach an agreement will further delay the disbursement of the next tranche of bailout funds, adding to Greece’s woes as it grapples with a massive influx of refugees.

Although German media reports have indicated that Berlin is mulling over different scenarios, including a more “flexible” stance on pension cuts, German officials were adamant there can only be “flexibility within the existing program.”

While it is clear that Berlin does not want Athens to be overwhelmed by challenged it faces, it remains steadfast in its demand that the terms of bailout deal are fully met.

A Christian Democrat party official explained that, while Athens can indeed cite its contribution to combatting the refugee crisis as an argument, that won’t balance out the need for it to fulfill its bailout obligations.

But even if German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble were to soften his stance, any change would still have to pass through German parliament, making Greece’s case even harder.

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