NEWS

Slovenian PM: Solidarity to Greece has its limits

The solidarity expressed to Greece by its fellow euro members has limits because other countries are struggling under their own austerity commitments, Slovenia’s prime minister said.

While the former Yugoslav republic of 2 million people recognized that Greece “is in a very difficult position,” Premier Miro Cerar said all members of the EU must adhere to the bloc’s norms, which include maintaining budget deficits and public debt at sustainable levels.

“Our people are also subject to austerity measures,” Cerar, 51, said in an interview in his office in the capital Ljubljana. “We are doing all we can to reduce our budget deficit, to consolidate our public finances. For this reason we can’t go too far on the issue of solidarity, because it would be a bad signal to our citizens, to our taxpayers.”

Tensions between Greece and its euro partners, including Germany, have risen since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office in January and pledged to end his country’s cooperation with the international bodies that have bailed out Greece. While Germany demands Tsipras stick to commitments to rein in spending, the Greek leader says austerity is strangling his country.

Slovenia is a contributor to the 240 billion euros in aid extended to Greece by the EU, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank in exchange for pledges to cut spending and overhaul its economy. The Adriatic nation narrowly avoided its own rescue in 2013 when it injected 3.2 billion euros of capital into its biggest banks and made a plan to sell state-owned companies, cut spending, and take other economic measures.

Cerar, a former law professor with a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, won early elections in 2014 with a six-week-old political party touting an anti-graft platform. He replaced Alenka Bratusek, whose government collapsed over disagreements in her coalition about selling state assets and other austerity measures.

In Greece’s case, EU states should show some flexibility “in terms of deadlines, and of course some possible adjustments” to its bailout program, Cerar said.

“But the basic frame and basic rules of the European Union must be obeyed by all the countries,” Cerar said. “This is our stance, and we also expect from Greece to show that it is capable and willing to do very important structural reforms and to apply European Union standards and rules.”

[Bloomberg]