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EUROZONE

Vice-chancellor: ‘horror’ of Greek exit has gone

German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Philipp Rösler on Sunday reiterated his doubts about whether debt-mired Greece would be able to stay in the eurozone, saying the "horror" of a potential exit had worn off.

Vice-chancellor: 'horror' of Greek exit has gone
Photo: DPA

Rösler told ARD public television that Athens’ partners would wait for the progress report of the troika of Greek creditors – the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

“Nevertheless I have to say I am more than sceptical,” said Rösler, who is also head of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners in Merkel’s centre-right coalition government.

“Unfortunately it is likely that Greece will not be able to fulfil (the troika’s) requirements. And I say quite clearly, if Greece fails to comply with the requirements that there should be no more payments to Greece.”

He said that an end to further international support might prompt the Greeks to conclude “that it is perhaps smarter to leave the eurozone.”

“I think for many experts, for the FDP, for me, that an exit by Greece from the eurozone lost its horror a long time ago.”

Troika auditors are expected in Athens this week for a close inspection of the economic programme rolled out by the country’s new government.

Their report will determine whether Greece will receive fresh loans of €31.5 billion ($38.3 billion) by September due under its debt rescue programme.

Rösler and his party have frequently expressed doubts about whether Greece is prepared to follow through with the painful reforms necessary to stay in the single currency club.

The FDP is struggling in voter polls to stay above the five percent required for representation in parliament ahead of next year’s general election.

AFP/bk

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ANGELA MERKEL

German war crime payments debated in Greece

Greece's parliament on Wednesday began a debate on a resolution to demand the payment of German war crime reparations, an issue long disputed by Berlin.

German war crime payments debated in Greece
Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras in Greece in January. Photo: DPA

“These demands are always active. They were never set aside by Greece,” parliament chairman Nikos Voutsis told reporters this week.

The chamber is expected to approve later Wednesday, with cross-party support, a resolution calling on the government of Premier Alexis Tsipras “to take all the necessary diplomatic and legal steps to claim and fully satisfy all the demands of the Greek state stemming from World War I and World War II”.

A parliamentary committee last year determined that Germany owes Greece at least €270 billion for World War I damages and looting, atrocities and a forced loan during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Reclaiming war reparations has been a campaign pledge by Tsipras since 2015. He faces multiple electoral challenges this year, with his party trailing in polls.

'Historical responsibility'

During a visit to Greece in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country “recognised its historical responsibility.”

SEE ALSO: Merkel says Germany recognizes responsibility for Nazi war crimes in Greece

“We recognize our historical responsibility. We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece,” she said.

In 2014, ex-president Joachim Gauck had also sought public forgiveness in the name of Germany from relatives of those murdered by the Nazis in the mountains of northern Greece.

But when it comes to actual payments, the German government has always insisted that the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Germany's government spokesman Steffen Seibert reiterated Wednesday that “the reparation issue is judicially and politically settled”. 

He said Berlin is doing “everything it can so Greece and Germany maintain good relations as friends and partners”. 

During the Greek economic crisis, there was further tension in Athens over draconian EU austerity and bailout terms seen to be imposed by Berlin hardliners.

Relations have improved over the last three years after Tsipras' government endorsed conditions linked to satisfying its creditors.

Tsipras and Merkel also worked closely on finding common ground on migration and Balkans security.

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