Germany: Euro zone won't bow to Greek aid time pressure - paper

BERLIN Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:30am IST

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble delivers his speech during the ''German Economic Forum'', organized by German weekly newspaper ''Die Zeit'', in the St.Michaelis church in Hamburg, November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble delivers his speech during the ''German Economic Forum'', organized by German weekly newspaper ''Die Zeit'', in the St.Michaelis church in Hamburg, November 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the troika of international lenders to Athens was unlikely to deliver a full report in time for Monday's euro zone finance ministers meeting and that talks over Greek budget controls continued.

Schaeuble echoed his recent comments about Greece in an interview with German paper Welt am Sonntag, published on the eve of the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels where the main topic will be unfreezing lending to Athens.

"At the moment it does not look as if we will have a finished, complete troika report on Monday, especially given that the Greek parliament is only agreeing the budget on Sunday," he said in the interview published on Sunday.

Greece passed a structural reform package in parliament on Wednesday and is to vote through an austerity budget for 2013 on Sunday.

However, time pressure for a deal is growing as Athens has to redeem 5 billion euros worth of treasury bills on November 16 and has been counting on cash from the next euro zone aid tranche to help cover that.

"We in the Eurogroup and in the IMF want to help Greece but we will not let ourselves be put under pressure," the German finance minister told the newspaper.

"We are not responsible for the time pressure, all parties involved have been aware of this deadline for a long time," said Schaeuble.

"No one in the euro zone has a problem with agreeing to the payment of the next tranche, but only when the conditions have been fulfilled ... and that is up to the government in Athens."

The minister said the troika - the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank - had in the past made a "very optimistic" assessment of the situation in Greece, making him all the more keen for a realistic review this time around.

But he still felt there was a path for Greece within the euro zone, even if it would be hard, "because the neglect of many decades must be made up for".

The German government and parliament could discuss the finished troika report, he said.

IN THE RUNNING

"If we are already so ambitious and successful, I think we must also fulfil our European and global duties," said Schaeuble. "Therefore I cannot step on the brakes in an even more radical way."

Schaeuble, who has been dogged by health problems, also told the newspaper he would run he would run for election again for the Bundestag lower house of parliament in 2013, and would not exclude another term in cabinet.

Wheelchair bound since he was shot by a deranged man a week after German unification, the 70-year-old conservative is one of the country's most respected politicians, at home and abroad and committed to European unity.

"I have decided to stand for election again for the Bundestag," he told the newspaper.

Asked if he would like to stay on as finance minister for another four years, he answered: "I am very happy doing this job, but I am not going to start racking my brains now about what will happen in the next legislative period."

On the topic of budget consolidation, Schaeuble defended plans by Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition to introduce extra child benefits, saying they did not threaten his goal for a balanced budget in 2014.

"The debate is het up, the finance minister is relaxed," he said.

He added Germany remained committed to helping drive European economic growth, given its relatively robust state and recessionary trends elsewhere.

Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's Bundesbank central bank, was quoted on Saturday as saying that the coalition's decisions may jeopardise its own consolidation goals, as they went "in the opposite direction".

(Reporting By Sarah Marsh)

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