Tuesday 19 September 2017

Germany and Greece still can't agree on deal to avert default, says Schaeuble

German Chancellor Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
German Chancellor Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Madeline Chambers in Berlin

Germany and Greece are still some distance apart on a possible compromise between Greece and its creditors to keep the country from default, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said, a day after he met his Greek counterpart in Berlin.

Mr Schaeuble told a conference organised by his conservative CDU party in Berlin that his working relations with Yanis Varoufakis were "OK", adding, however, that the Greek finance minister was "hard work".

"We were together yesterday... we had differing views," said Mr Schaeuble on Tuesday.

Greece has handed its creditors new proposals on unlocking funds to prevent the country going bankrupt, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressing hope for a deal and warning that the cost of failure would be enormous.

Mr Schaeuble was not asked about these plans, but some European officials said the proposals were insufficient to get a deal.

Both Mr Schaeuble and Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb reiterated that the ball was in Greece's court to deliver reforms to free up the cash Athens will need by the end of June.

"We will do everything to keep Greece in the eurozone," said Mr Stubb, adding however that some finance ministers were starting to lose patience.

"In the last four or five years we have done everything in our power to keep Greece in the eurozone but this is a two-way street," he said, adding that the risk of contagion from a possible Grexit was not as great as it was a few years ago.

Both Mr Schaeuble and Mr Stubb have taken a tough line towards Athens in debt talks over the last few years.

Mr Schaeuble also denied media reports that a rift had emerged between him and his boss, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Greece.

"You shouldn't waste much time on these rumours," Mr Schaeuble told the conference.

German media reported that Mr Schaeuble had been upset by a surprise meeting in Berlin last week between Ms Merkel and Greece's international creditor institutions and that he was worried about a softening of Germany's tough stance towards Greece.

Irish Independent

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