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DEBT CRISIS

Support for euro fades as Greek doubts grow

Just over half of Germans think their country would be better off without the euro, a poll suggested on Sunday, as the economy minister reiterated doubts over whether Greece can stay in the single currency.

Support for euro fades as Greek doubts grow
Photo: DPA

The Emnid poll for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, showed 51 percent of Germans believed Europe’s top economy would be better outside the 17-country eurozone. Twenty-nine percent said it would be worse off.

The survey also showed that 71 percent of Germans wanted Greece to leave the euro if it did not live up to its austerity promises.

Economy Minister Philipp Rösler told Bild am Sonntag there were “considerable doubts whether Greece is living up to its reform promises.”

“The implementation (of the reforms) is faltering. There is still no functioning tax office. Also, almost nothing has happened in terms of the promised privatisation of public assets,” Rösler told the paper.

He added: “If Greece does not fulfil its obligations, there can be no more money. Then Greece would be insolvent.”

Rösler and his Free Democratic Party – junior partners in Germany’s ruling coalition – have frequently expressed doubts about whether Greece is prepared to follow through with the painful reforms necessary to retain the single currency.

Debt-wracked Greece is under immense pressure to carry out a structural reform programme, part of a package worth billions of euros that have been keeping its economy afloat since 2010.

International auditors are currently in Greece, assessing the government’s progress towards reforms seen as essential to get the country back on its feet.

The audit report will determine whether Greece will receive the next tranche of €31.5 billion from its aid programme that it needs to keep the economy running.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble reiterated Berlin’s line that the reforms must be carried out to the letter.

“The aid programme is already very accommodating. I do not see room for further concessions,” the minister told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

However, the head of the country’s chambers of commerce called for an end of the debate about Greece’s continued membership of the euro.

“We think it is wrong that, in Germany for example, there is a daily discussion about whether Greece should leave the euro,” said Martin Wansleben.

“That’s not our business. It’s up to the Greeks to decide,” he stressed.

AFP/hc

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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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