Greece needs support with refugee crisis, Schaeuble says in London

4 March 2016
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Greece needs additional support to cope with the challenges posed by the refugee crisis but that does not mean that it can relax efforts to reform and regain competitiveness, German Finance Minister Wolgang Schaeuble said on Thursday (03/03/2016), in a lecture analysing Germany’s role in Europe at the London School of Economics.

“There is a new situation, the refugee crisis, so Greece needs – beyond the old discussion – additional solidarity and that is what we are granting to them. But this does not mean that Greece should not continue to work on what is a difficult thing for Greeks to achieve, to regain competitiveness,” he said.
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Sticking to his guns on the need for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, Schaeuble said that the issue of moral hazard was “huge” in the construction of the monetary union, while levels of indebtedness on all levels left much less “space” for fiscal stimulus and creating new debt.

“The old way to stimulate growth will not work,” he said, accusing of economists of forgetting “half of Keynes,” namely that in times of surplus, spending must be reduced.

Asked if he was about to be “softer” with Greece on pension reform, Schaeuble stressed that the deal agreed in the summer of 2015 must be honoured by all sides.

“We have taken a decision in the summer time. The whole story is very short…” he said, noting that he had warned Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras years earlier that he would be unable to keep his promises if he campaigned to stay in the EU while not accepting the fiscal reform programme.

“He promised, he won and six months later he did the opposite. And Greece had to pay a terrible price for this, it was very expensive for Greece,” he said.

“We took a decision in July-August last year and since we have taken a decision, we have taken a decision. A deal is a deal,” Schaeuble added. “We made a deal in the summer and everyone has to stick with what has been agreed.”

At the same time, the German finance minister acknowledged that a way had to be found to support Greece as it struggled with the new challenge of the refugee crisis, noting that Greece was currently “suffering a terrible lack of solidarity from alot of European member-states.”

“We have to find European solutions,” he said, adding that Europe was moving toward more solidarity on the refugee issue and this would be seen after the summit on Monday, while the European Commission had taken too long but had just presented a plan for supporting Greece.

Germany will resist pressures, both from German voters and many of its neighbours, to take decisions that would “two days later [make] Greece a failed state,” Schaeuble commented.

“We will not do it. This is in the interests not only of Greece, it is in the interests of Europe, because Europe has to defend its self, its values” he said, noting a need for more engagement – and spending – in neighbourship, as well as the countries of origin and those neighbouring the war zone, such as Turkey.

Fielding more questions on Greece, he noted that a deal had been struck with Greece in the summer after difficult negotiations and “therefore Grexit is not on the table.”

“We stick to this, to this deal…It is up to Greece to stick to what has been agreed and we stick to what has been agreed,” while stressing that completing the reforms was a “must”.

Asked why a review of Greece’s programme has not yet been concluded, the German finance minister pointed squarely at Greece for not delivering what the agreements called for.

“It is not a problem for the institutions, it is problem for Greece to deliver what has been agreed,” he said, while adding that it was up to the three institutions to find solutions for the financing needs of Greece, given the additional needs created by the refugee crisis,” he said.

He warned, however, that Greece “had an interest not to be misunderstood” that it will use the migration crisis in order to not stick to the agreements for overcoming the eurozone crisis. Regaining competitiveness in Greece was “a very specific case and very difficult to achieve,” he acknowledged, especially without the instrument of external devaluation, “but good luck and we are supportive as much as we can.”

Read more: http://www.newsbomb.gr/en/story/675658/greece-needs-support-with-refugee-crisis-but-cannot-relax-reform-efforts-schaeuble-says-in-london#ixzz41vEr8VH8

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