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German, French Finance Chiefs Pledge Support for Greece Staying in Eurozone

  • VOA News

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, left, and his new counterpart from France Pierre Moscovici brief the media after a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Berlin, May 21, 2012.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, left, and his new counterpart from France Pierre Moscovici brief the media after a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Berlin, May 21, 2012.

The German and French finance chiefs are pledging their support for efforts to keep Greece in the euro currency bloc, but remain at odds over creating a new way to help debt-ridden governments finance their operations.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his French counterpart, Pierre Moscovici, met in Berlin to prepare for an informal summit of European Union leaders Wednesday in Brussels.

Schaeuble said Germany and France want Greece to remain in the 17-nation euro bloc after a second round of Greek parliamentary elections next month. But Schaeuble said a new Athens government must adhere to the austerity plan agreed to earlier this year in exchange for billions of dollars in new bailout funds.

"We completely agree that we have to stick with what we agreed with Greece and that we have to do everything," he said. "We want Greece to remain in the Euro-Union and want to do everything to reach that goal. During the past two years we have worked intensely, we agreed on a program for Greece. We know that Greece is in a difficult situation domestically, but we hope that the elections will enable Greece to contribute its part in reaching the mutual goal, with a government that is able to act.''

Schaeuble and Moscovici disagreed on a call by new French President Francois Hollande for the creation of eurobonds, debt jointly issued by the currency bloc as a way to boost economic growth throughout the region and cut the cost of borrowing for weaker governments.

Moscovici said it was important for the eurobond idea to be discussed by the heads of state at the Brussels meeting.

"We spoke about this, with both confirming a position that is already known," he said. "I also have to add that Francois Hollande wants to put everything on the table including subjects that can be agreed upon easily but also subjects that need to be examined closely, subjects that are contestable and might not be agreed upon. But we will talk about this on Wednesday. But for us it is a strong idea. No one can be forced into it, but we will talk about it. The summit on Wednesday only makes sense if everything is on the table. It will be an opportunity for the heads of state to talk about everything.''

Germany, with the eurozone's most robust economy and its lowest borrowing costs, has long resisted the sale of eurobonds. It says debtor governments like Greece, Italy and Spain and others must first control their spending. The German government says it is worried that jointly issued bonds would increase the very low interest rates Berlin pays.

The meeting between the two finance chiefs took place amid growing evidence that the German government is isolated in its focus on austerity measures aimed at cutting the deficits of the eurozone's debt-ridden governments.

The debate over eurozone economic policy is occurring as Greece's continued membership in the eurozone remains in question, with new national elections set for June 17 after a splintered vote earlier this month left the country's fractious parties unable to form a coalition government.

The caretaker Greek government said Friday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed Greece also stage a referendum at the same time about whether to stay in the eurozone. But Ms. Merkel's spokesman on Monday forcefully denied that she had made the suggestion.

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