Jean-Claude Juncker on the Greek crisis, then and now

Greece came to the brink of a eurozone exit at one point in time according to Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. In an interview aired on Skai TV’s New Files program late Tuesday the former Eurozone chief noted that he had threatened to resign in a bid to avert this outcome.

During the interview the Luxembourg premier expressed satisfaction with regard to progress made by Greece in the implementation of its fiscal consolidation program and noted that the danger of the country leaving the eurozone area has been removed. He appeared confident that the country would accomplish its targets, achieve a primary surplus in 2013 and go into growth mode in 2014.

With regard to a recent International Monetary Fund report regarding the Greek bailout which stated that a debt haircut should have taken place back in 2010, Juncker argued that the necessary tools and funds for such a move were not in place in those days and that limiting the threat of contagion was a priority.

He also observed that the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank insisted upon measures that were not fairly distributed among Greek society.

“I’m of the opinion that the wealthiest part of Greek society was not really submitted to the same amount of contribution as the weakest part of Greek society,” said Juncker, who noted that he fought against the reduction of the Greek minimum wage, among other issues. “It was the poorest Greeks who had to suffer most. These were by doubts and these are still my doubts.”

Talk of a new debt haircut is not “on the table” said Juncker, who noted that such a discussion, would lead markets to gain a fresh interest in what they would consider a “Greek weakness.”

The Greek debt crisis could not have been avoided said Juncker, who noted that the collapse of Lehman Brothers, for instance, was an event that occurred away from Greece but that the country appeared in markets and to observers as the eurozone’s weakest partner and became the focus of speculators.

Although some measures could have been taken by the Greek government at the time, “the problem was far more serious than that,” he said.

Hailing Greek citizens for demonstrating impressive courage, Juncker noted that his own efforts were aimed at averting a Greek eurozone exit and stepping away from “the criminal undertaking which would have consisted of throwing Greece away like a piece of paper.”

“Greece is not nothing,” he said. “Greece is in my heart.”