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Finance minister: Greece only has self to blame

Germany's finance minister Friday kept up the pressure on Greece to continue its reforms, as eurozone ministers prepared for a series of crucial meetings next week on the future of the crisis-hit country.

Finance minister: Greece only has self to blame
Photo: DPA

Speaking on a documentary about the eurozone crisis due to air on public broadcaster ZDF next Tuesday, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said: “We want Greece to stay in the eurozone. But Greece has a lot of things to do. That has not yet been decided.”

“There are doubts over whether Greece has fulfilled its commitments up until now. These doubts must be dispelled in the future,” added Schäuble, according to a statement released in advance byZDF.

Eurozone officials are poring over a Greek request for the terms of its bailout to be extended by two years to 2016, allowing it to spread out the pain of the austerity measures it has signed up to in return.

Such an extension, however, could add up to €30 billion to an already huge bailout bill.

A spokesman for the head of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, Jean-Claude Juncker, said earlier on Friday that they would hold a conference call on Wednesday.

A team of auditors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank is putting the finishing touches on a report that will decide whether Athens gets the next tranche of bailout cash

to stay afloat.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been trying to persuade his coalition allies to accept new austerity measures to close that deal but they have baulked at labour reforms demanded by the troika of creditors.

Without the aid payment, Samaras has warned, the country could be broke by the middle of next month.

Schäuble also lashed out at some Greek politicians who have sought to deflect the blame away from Athens.

“If politicians in Greece try to convince people that someone in Brussels, Europe or Germany is responsible for their problems, then they are irresponsible demagogues,” he said, according to the text.

“Blame for the situation in Greece is down to nobody other than Greece and the Greek politicians,” he said.

AFP/jlb

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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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