Eurozone states want Greece out, says Venizelos

 
Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos speaks during a press conference in Athens on January 31 Evangelos Venizelos warned there were some eurozone members who no longer wanted Greece

Some eurozone countries no longer want Greece in the bloc, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said.

He accused the states of "playing with fire", as Greece scrambled to finalise an austerity plan demanded by the EU and IMF in return for a huge bailout.

Athens vowed to clarify the plan before a conference call with eurozone bosses, which was due to start at 16:00 GMT.

Greece needs to convince lenders that it will make enough savings, and that its politicians will enact the changes.

Athens is hoping to get a 130bn-euro (£110bn; $170bn) bailout from the EU and IMF.

The deal also includes a provision to write off a further 100bn euros of debt owed to banks.

Parliament approved a package of austerity measures on Sunday, but eurozone ministers indicated that more detail needed to be given on the cuts.

The ministers also insisted that the major Greek political parties committed to implementing the cuts, regardless of who wins a general election scheduled for April.

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At the highest levels of government in Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria the attitude towards Greece is one of scepticism. They don't believe the politicians in Athens can deliver any more”

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Leaders of the two main parties have now signed letters committing them to enacting the changes.

The leader of the conservative New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, wrote that if his party won in April it would "remain committed to the programme's objectives, targets and key policies".

A Greek official told the BBC that 325m euros of extra savings had been made with cuts from defence, health and local government budgets.

Mr Venizelos said there were "very few remaining issues" with the austerity package and promised to have them "fully clarified" before the conference call.

But he also warned that some eurozone countries were "playing with fire", saying: "There are many in the eurozone who don't want us any more."

Mr Venizelos also said that President Karolos Papoulias had volunteered to give up his salary as an "honourable... symbolic gesture". He is reported to earn 280,000 euros a year.

'False rumours'

One eurozone finance official told AFP news agency that Wednesday's conference call would draw up "an inventory of what Greece has delivered, and checking if it is enough".

Without the bailout, Greece will be unable to pay its debts and will be forced into a default.

Greece crisis in numbers

Graphic

Sources: ELSTAT, BBC

Its next payment is due on 20 March, and the complex technicalities of finalising the bailout will take several weeks even after the politicians have agreed the measures.

But the austerity plan has been hugely unpopular in Greece.

Anger boiled over during Sunday's vote in parliament, when large groups of protesters clashed with riot police and dozens of buildings were set on fire in Athens.

And eurozone countries appear to be running out of patience with Greece.

On Wednesday German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told local radio he wanted to help Greece, but "we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit", in comments translated by AFP.

Unnamed eurozone officials were quoted as suggesting that Greece's latest assurances still may not be enough, because people no longer trusted the country's politicians.

Greece has failed to deliver on many of the promises it made to secure an earlier bailout deal, EU officials say.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, denied Germany wanted Greece out of the eurozone.

"I can clearly state for the federal government that these rumours are false," he said.

Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn, said eurozone members had "stated very clearly that they want Greece to remain a member of the eurozone".

However, the BBC's Matthew Price in Brussels says there is a growing sense among eurozone members that if Greece did leave it would not mean the collapse of the euro.

And in an interview in Manager Magazin to be published on Friday, the head of Germany's engineering and electronics giant Bosch calls for Greece to be ejected from the EU.

In a transcript acquired by Reuters, CEO Franz Fehrenbach says: "This state with its phantom pensioners and rich people that don't pay taxes, a state without a functioning administration, has no place in the European Union."

 

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  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 147.

    When are the EU countries going to realize that for businesses to invest capital and create jobs for Greeks, that they need stable government and reasonable employment standards so that they can have assurances that their investments have a chance to grow. It is very easy to demand cuts- that the Greeks need to understand and implement . Now is the time for some carrots after all the sticks.

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 145.

    The first duty of a democrtic sovereign government is to protect the rights and assets of citizens. The Greek government cannot do that as well as satisfy the demands of external creditors. Everyday life in Greece is becoming a total nightmare of unemployment, pensions slashed, and homelessness. They should shut their banks for a week, issue new drachmas, exit the euro, default, revamp tourism

  • rate this
    +92

    Comment number 67.

    Let Greece go back to the Drachma and trade like it used to be, the cheap holiday destination for many.

    By doing this, they will soon recover and be back on track, and probably make a laughing stock of the rest stuck in the Merkozy merry-go-round!!

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 64.

    Just one other thought:

    Given that the majority of Greek bailout money was going to go straight to creditors in other countries (both banks and governments), it would surely be just as effective to give this money straight to the banks if the EU is that worried about a collapse of the banking system. So I suspect the fears of a Greek euro exit are more political than economic.

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 57.

    Greece is a new democracy. It will probably leave the Euro soon one way or the other. Then we will witness massive social unrest and third world poverty in the centre of Europe. It could make the London riots look like child's play. Banks will fail across Europe and Governments will be forced to bail them out if they can. Despair, disaster, depression. I'm scared.

 

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