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Steinbrueck cites progress but sees longer recovery in Athens visit

During a visit to Athens Wednesday, Germany’s Social Democrat candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrueck, repeated his call for Greece to be given more time to complete its fiscal adjustment and expressed reservations about when the Greek government might be able to turn to the international markets for its borrowing requirements.

On a whirlwind 24-hour visit to Athens, during which he met with President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, the SPD’s chancellor candidate acknowledged that Greece had made significant steps and could end the year with a primary surplus.

However, he said that the government had to make greater efforts to produce a fairer tax system. Steinbrueck, who served in the past as finance minister in a coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he had relayed his concerns to Stournaras, pointing out that the legitimacy of Greece’s program would be questioned if the burden continued to fall on Greeks who have seen their wages slashed while few inroads are made into tax evasion.

Steinbrueck’s party is trailing Merkel’s conservatives in opinion polls ahead of national elections this fall but the SPD candidate insisted the possibility of the Social Democrats winning was not “utopian.” He said that an SPD-led government would place more emphasis on maintaining social cohesion in Greece and driving growth and job creation.

“I fear, though, that Greece’s return to the markets will take longer than what we expect today,” added Steinbrueck.

The SPD politician also stated that fellow center-left party PASOK should not be held responsible for Greece’s crisis.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday February 6, 2013 (20:58)  
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