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Danger of euro exit still real, Kouvelis warns

Greece has not fully escaped the danger of leaving the euro area, the Democratic Left leader said in an interview on Sunday, while urging faster reforms to remedy the debt-wracked nation's structural deficits.

In comments made to Skai television channel on Sunday, Fotis Kouvelis, the boss of the third biggest party in Greece's power-sharing coalition, warned against any more horizontal cuts in the recession-hit country, while criticizing austerity measures passed by the previous administrations as uneven, unfair, unbearable and counter-productive.

The moderate leftist leader instead called for policies aimed at boosting growth and curbing unemployment. He also urged measures to crack down on tax dodging, corruption and the black market.

Greece, currently in its fifth year of recession, depends on financial aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund which have imposed budget cuts that have caused a wave of corporate closures and triggered job losses. Unemployment hit 22.5 percent in April.

Kouvelis told Skai Greece needed to renegotiate the terms of its bailout program and seek an extension of the fiscal adjustment period. But any modifications, he said, must be pushed through contacts with the governments of Greece's EU peers and not through the troika of creditors, which he dubbed a mediator institution.

But on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle ruled out any renegotation of Greece's budget austerity program.

I see desires emerging in Greece to renegotiate and substantially question the country's obligations to carry out reforms. I have to say simply, that will not do. It is a Rubicon that we are not going to cross, Westerwelle told German daily Bild.

Troika inspectors are expected in Athens this week for another in-depth inspection of the new government's economic program.

ekathimerini.com , Sunday Jul 22, 2012 (11:58)  
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