Greek Economy Minister Dimitris Papadimitriou has accused German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of being "dishonest" by blocking debt relief for Greece despite his acknowledgement that Athens had implemented significant reforms.
Papadimitriou made the comments in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt published on Thursday, when eurozone finance ministers are expected to reach a compromise deal that frees up new loans for Greece while putting off decisions on debt relief.
“Even Wolfgang Schaeuble said that we met the requirements, but then he changed his mind, ” Papadimitriou told the newspaper. “I haven't met Schaeuble yet and I don't want to be impolite, but his behaviour seems dishonest to me. ”
A spokesman for Schaeuble told a government news conference on Wednesday he expected agreement on a sustainable overall package at Thursday's meeting, but said there was no guarantee that Athens would get debt relief.
Schaeuble said on Tuesday he was confident that Greece would reach a deal with lender this week. Last month he said everything pointed to stronger growth in Greece.
On Wednesday, his spokesman said it remained Germany's view that debt relief measures for Greece could only be decided after the existing third bailout ends in 2018.
Papadimitriou said German resistance to debt relief for Greece raised questions about the very idea and structure of the eurozone. The success of right-wing populists in Europe also showed dissatisfaction with such European structures, he said.
“Greece is being made a sacrificial lamb, ” he said.
Papadimitriou also warned Schaeuble against making decisions based purely on domestic politics, noting that Germany had also received debt relief when it was rebuilding after World War Two.
Debt relief is needed to help Greece expand its economy, he said, noting that Athens was not asking for a debt cut, but rather lower interest rates or longer repayment schedules.
Social Democrats in the European Parliament also urged Schaeuble to drop his resistance to debt relief for Greece.
Gianni Pittella, head of the Socialists in the European body, told Die Welt newspaper that it was unfair to hold Greece hostage, and said it was time to come towards Athens after years of enduring harsh reforms.
“Holding Greece hostage for domestic reasons would be tantamount to suicide for Europe, ” he told the newspaper.