NEWS

FM: Do not scapegoat Greece

Greece has the decisiveness and the ability to overcome a crippling debt crisis, has made unprecedented changes over the past year since the country?s first bailout and should not be scapegoated for the broader failings of the eurozone, Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis has told the BBC.

In an interview aired on the broadcaster?s ?Hardtalk? program on Tuesday, Lambrinidis conceded Greece has ?an explosive combination of debt and deficit that exceeded that of any other country? but suggested that the broader problems of the eurozone and its single currency were a more serious concern and the reason that European Union leaders hammered out a second bailout for Greece last month.

The debt problem ?revealed itself as a European one and therefore it needed a European solution,? the minister said, adding that the Brussels pact had offered Greece ?the stability and breathing space? to push through tough measures and allowed the EU to be able to monitor this process ?without a gun to its head from the markets.? ?Europe realized that scapegoating Greece is not an answer to the problem,? the minister said.

Lambrinidis rebuffed accusations that the second bailout equated to a default but stressed that Greeks are ?not safe? and still have much work to do to dispel the doubts about Greece?s ability to get back on track.

?We are not even close to where we need to be but we have exhibited the will and the capacity to make the tough changes,? he said.

The minister gave the example of a new tax crackdown as evidence of the government?s will and suggested that the Greek mind-set was changing. ?Little by little we have a small revolution,? he said, claiming that people were gradually recognizing the importance of paying their dues to the state.

Lambrinidis said that he understood the concerns of Greece?s foreign creditors about the country?s ability to slash the debt and create primary surpluses to drive growth, but said the government should be given a chance to make good on its pledges to push through bold reforms voted through Parliament.

?I don?t want anyone to give me a blank check,? he said. ?Watch me closely, judge me; however give me the chance to prove that I can do what I say.?