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Thursday 8 December 2016

Greece crisis: prepare for 'state of emergency' - German EU commissioner

Published 15/06/2015 | 11:14

An anti-establishment protester tries to attack riot police during a protest in Athens yesterday.
An anti-establishment protester tries to attack riot police during a protest in Athens yesterday.

The European Union needs to start making plans for a "state of emergency" in Greece from July 1 if Athens fails to reach an agreement with its creditors, Germany's EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Monday in Berlin.

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In remarks to reporters before a meeting of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic party (CDU), Oettinger said it was time to make concrete preparations for a crisis in Greece if no deal is reached, Greece defaults and exits the euro zone.

Separately, a close ally of Merkel, CDU parliamentary floor leader Volker Kauder, told German TV that Greece needs to "get back to reality" as signs emerged her conservatives were growing more exasperated after talks broke down on Sunday.

"We should work out an emergency plan because Greece would fall into a state of emergency," said Oettinger, the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society who is also a senior member of Merkel's CDU in unusually strong comments.

"Energy supplies, pay for police officials, medical supplies, and pharmaceutical products and much more" needed to be ensured, he said. He noted that the EU has "proven mechanisms" that can help states to fulfil essential duties such as with police protection and healthcare.

"I think that the Commission needs to work out a plan that could avert a worsening of the situation in the event that Greece leaves the euro zone, in the event of a bankruptcy," said Oettinger, who is in charge of the digital economy for the EU.

Talks on ending the deadlock between Greece and its international creditors broke up in failure, with European leaders venting frustration as Athens stumbled towards a debt default that threatens its future in the euro.

Oettinger told reporters on his way into a CDU party executive meeting in Berlin that Athens needed to come up with suggestions on pension reform to move the talks forward.

"The offer is still valid to hold Greece in the euro zone. But for that to happen Greece will have to move its positions on pensions and its general budget consolidation," he said.

"There is a gap there that cannot be filled by European taxpayers, in my view," Oettinger said.

The dire warnings from Merkel's conservatives were also echoed by the leader of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel. He warned in a column for Bild newspaper on Monday that patience with Greece is wearing thin.

Gabriel has until now been generally sympathetic to Greece's plight before the hardening of attitudes across the spectrum in Germany. An opinion poll on Friday showed most Germans want Greece now to leave the euro zone.

"The shadow of an exit of Greece from the euro zone takes on ever clearer shape," he wrote. "Repeated apparently final attempts to reach a deal are starting to make the whole process look ridiculous. There is an ever greater number of people who feel as if the Greek government is giving them the run-around."

Reuters

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