Eurozone crisis: Greece 'can't take any more cuts'

People clash with police in the streets during a demonstration against the new austerity measures in Athens on February 12 Thousands protested in Athens on Sunday as Greek MPs approved an austerity package

The Greek people have been pushed to the limit by austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF, public order minister Christos Papoutsis says.

He said Greeks had made "superhuman" efforts, and "can't take any more".

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos says all remaining issues with the austerity package will be solved in time for a conference call with eurozone chiefs later.

Greece has been told to make deep cuts in return for a huge bailout package.

Athens is negotiating the terms of a 130bn euro ($170bn, £109bn) deal with the EU and IMF.

The Greek parliament approved an austerity package on the weekend, despite violent protests sweeping the country.

But eurozone ministers demanded a further 325m euros of cuts and insisted that all major Greek parties promise to enact the cuts regardless of who wins a general election scheduled for April.

Mr Venizelos said there were "very few remaining issues" with the austerity package.

He said they would be "fully clarified" by 18:00 (16:00 GMT), when the country's leaders are due to discuss the issue with eurozone chiefs.

But he also warned that some eurozone countries were "playing with fire", hinting that some member states no longer wanted Greece in the bloc.

Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy party is a member of the governing coalition and is expected to win April's vote, had hinted that he would try to renegotiate the bailout deal after the election.

Analysis

There is now huge mistrust between eurozone leaders and Greece. Despite Athens passing its austerity package in parliament last Sunday, Brussels has set two more conditions for Greece's international bailout: that an extra 325m euros of savings are found and that the Greek government sign a pledge to implement the cuts.

The EU has grown exasperated with a perceived lack of commitment by Greece and there is now immense pressure on Athens to quicken the pace of change. But there is real anger in Greece. Athens saw the worst rioting for years when the austerity package was passed by parliament.

Greece is now in a worrying situation. Its economy contracted by 7% in the last quarter. Eurozone finance ministers will now meet on Monday instead - perhaps the bailout will come then, but this game of brinkmanship could be very dangerous indeed.

Earlier reports said Mr Samaras had refused to give a written assurance that the cuts would be enforced.

But unnamed officials were quoted on Wednesday as saying Mr Samaras had now signed a letter committing him to the austerity package, and it would be delivered by the end of the day.

After a cabinet meeting late on Tuesday, Mr Papoutsis, a member of the other major coalition party Pasok, said Greece had "made all the efforts that it needed to do".

"The people cannot take any more. The government is making superhuman efforts, and we have reached the limits of the social and economic system," he said.

"Greece has owned up to its own responsibilities, and the sacrifices of the Greek people are huge. I believe it is time for everyone to own up to their responsibilities."

Eurozone ministers were due to hold talks on the bailout on Wednesday, but eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the face-to-face talks would be replaced by a conference call.

He said Greece had not shown that it was committed to the austerity plan, and technical work was still needed "in a number of areas".

As well as 17 ministers from nations that use the euro, the president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi and the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, had also been due to attend the meeting.

Athens and EU flag What went wrong in Greece?

What went wrong in Greece?

An old drachma note and a euro note
Greece's economic reforms, which led to it abandoning the drachma as its currency in favour of the euro in 2002, made it easier for the country to borrow money.

What went wrong in Greece?

The opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics
Greece went on a big, debt-funded spending spree, including paying for high-profile projects such as the 2004 Athens Olympics, which went well over its budget.

What went wrong in Greece?

A defunct restaurant for sale in central Athens
The country was hit by the downturn, which meant it had to spend more on benefits and received less in taxes. There were also doubts about the accuracy of its economic statistics.

What went wrong in Greece?

A man with a bag of coins walks past the headquarters of the Bank of Greece
Greece's economic problems meant lenders started charging higher interest rates to lend it money. Widespread tax evasion also hit the government's coffers.

What went wrong in Greece?

Workers in a rally led by the PAME union in Athens on 22 April 2010
There have been demonstrations against the government's austerity measures to deal with its debt, such as cuts to public sector pay and pensions, reduced benefits and increased taxes.

What went wrong in Greece?

Greece's problems have made investors nervous, which has made it more expensive for other European countries such as Portugal to borrow money.
Eurozone leaders are worried that if Greece were to default, and even leave the euro, it would cause a major financial crisis that could spread to much bigger economies such as Italy and Spain.

What went wrong in Greece?

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou at an EU summit in Brussels on 26 March 2010
In 2010, the EU, IMF and ECB agreed a bailout worth 110bn euros (£92bn; $145bn) for Greece. Prime Minister George Papandreou quit the following year while negotiating its follow-up.

What went wrong in Greece?

Lucas Papademos
Lucas Papademos, who succeeded Mr Papandreou, has negotiated a second bailout of 130bn euros, plus a debt writedown of 107bn euros. The price: increased austerity and eurozone monitoring.

What went wrong in Greece?

Crowds
In May 2012 elections a majority of voters backed parties opposed to austerity, but no group won an overall majority resulting in political deadlock. Fresh elections have been called in June.
BACK {current} of {total} NEXT

The latest bailout was agreed in principle by EU leaders in October, conditional on Greece adopting further measures to cut its deficit and restructure its economy.

On Sunday, Greek MPs approved extra cutbacks, but coalition parties had to expel more than 40 deputies for failing to back the bill.

Thousands protested in Athens, where there were widespread clashes and buildings were set on fire. Violent protests were reported in cities across the country.

On Tuesday, an official report showed that the decline of the Greek economy accelerated in the final three months of 2011.

The estimate showed that, compared with a year earlier, Greek GDP contracted by 7% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

That is an acceleration from the 5% contraction in the third quarter.

The report also shows that the Greek economy shrank 6% last year, an increase on earlier estimates and the fifth year of recession.

More on This Story

Global Economy

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.