BERLIN Dec 4 Structural reforms rather than
debt relief will help Greece to achieve sustainable growth and
stay in the euro zone because rates and repayment are putting
hardly any burden on its budget, Gerany's finance minister was
quoted as saying on Sunday.
Euro zone finance ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday
to discuss short-term measures to lighten Greece's debt burden
and to assess Athens' progress in reforms required within its
third bailout programme.
Asked in an interview by Bild am Sonntag newspaper whether
it might be time to tell German voters that a debt cut for
Greece was inevitable, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said:
"That would not help Greece."
"Athens must finally implement the needed reforms. If Greece
wants to stay in the euro, there is no way around it - in fact
completely regardless of the debt level," Schaeuble said.
Schaeuble, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's
conservatives, said the Greek budget was hardly burdened by
interest rates and debt repayment because its euro zone partners
had already relieved Athens from such duties for a long time.
Germany is heading into an election year in 2017 and
Merkel's conservatives are getting ready to campaign in an
increasingly fractured political landscape, in which the
far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is likely to enter the
national parliament for the first time.
The AfD is benefitting from a popular backlash over Merkel's
decision last year to open Germany's borders to more than one
million migrants, many of them Muslims fleeing from war zones in
the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The anti-immigrant AfD is also strictly against the euro
zone's current policy of bailing out struggling member states
under the condition of structural reforms.
Greece's official creditors - the European Stability
Mechanism (ESM), the ECB and the IMF - are assessing Athens'
delivery on reforms and fiscal targets set in its bailout
programme of up to 86 billion euros ($92 billion) agreed last
summer, the third aid package for Greece since 2010.
Greece hopes to swiftly conclude the review and secure
short-term debt relief so that its bonds are included in the
ECB's bond buying scheme and it can return to capital markets
before 2018, when its current bailout expires.
The main sticking point in talks with lenders are unpopular
labour reforms, including collective bargaining, a mechanism to
set the minimum wage and giving companies more freedom to lay
($1 = 0.9373 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Toby Chopra)