Germany ‘won’t overstrain’ Greece but reforms set in stone

Germany expects the next Greek government to stick to the terms of the bailout agreement which remain non-negotiable, officials said on Monday, while comments from the foreign minister about giving Athens more time for reforms were quickly slapped down.

Berlin hailed Sunday’s election victory for the conservative New Democracy over the radical leftist SYRIZA block as a clear vote by Greeks to remain in the euro zone and respect bailout terms imposed by Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

Germany’s deputy finance minister said Greece’s creditors in the European Union considered that further loan tranches would hinge on a new Greek government’s commitment to reforms, while Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made it clear the heavily-indebted euro zone state still had a lot of work to do.

“The substance of the reforms is not negotiable,» the foreign minister told German radio. «Whatever government is formed must stick to what has been agreed with Europe.”

But opinion appeared to be divided in Berlin over what concessions, if any, could be made now that Greece has delivered the election result which was urged by Chancellor Angela Merkel herself on the eve of the Greek vote.

“It is clear to us that Greece should not be over-strained,» Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter told German TV.

Westerwelle went further still, saying time for reforms had been «lost» during the election campaign and the impact of this had to be discussed .”We’re ready to talk about the time-frame as we can’t ignore the lost weeks and we don’t want people to suffer because of that,» said the minister.

But other German officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Westerwelle’s comments did not represent the broader government line and that the basis of negotiation remained the memorandum of understanding signed with Greece.

Asked about the possibility of extending the time frame for Greece, one of the sources said: «Forget it. That would take us much closer to a third programme for Greece and we’re far away from that.”

“Of course we are going to need to talk to the Greek government, but that is not on the table,» the source added. [Reuters]

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