Saturday 25 January 2020

Greece deal is 'unfair' to Ireland

Gareth Jones

GERMAN media accused the Berlin government of deceiving taxpayers over the true costs of saving Greece and said the eurozone would eventually have to write off much of its Greek debt. Some papers complained the deal was unfair on Ireland.

The Bundestag is expected to vote today or tomorrow on the package of measures agreed by eurozone finance ministers earlier this week that aim to cut Greek debt to 124pc of gross domestic product by 2020.

The Bundestag's approval is not in doubt, but the chorus of anger reverberating among German newspapers and lawmakers highlights the growing political risks for Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of next September's federal elections.

"The never-ending story," quipped Germany's best-selling 'Bild' of the latest Greek rescue, depicting Dr Merkel, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and other top officials as characters from the cult fantasy film of the same name.

The business daily 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' said the measures agreed for Greece, which include cutting interest rates and extending debt maturity dates, already amounted to a "haircut" for creditor nations holding Greek debt.

"After these crisis negotiations Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble can no longer maintain that saving the euro costs no money," wrote Holger Steltzner in the paper.

A weary sense of deja vu pervaded much newspaper coverage. "Greece is saved – yet again," sighed business daily 'Handelsblatt'.

London-based German academic Gunnar Beck said Germany was "tied to a corpse" and would be better to cut itself loose despite the benefits the common currency bring for German exporters.

Other newspapers said the special treatment doled out to Greece was unfair on countries such as Ireland and Portugal that have made big sacrifices to get their finances in order.

'Bild' said 25 Eurosceptic lawmakers from Merkel's coalition would vote against the Greece package. This would be embarrassing for Dr Merkel, but would not threaten its passage.

The main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) have signalled they will not try to block the Greek package in parliament, but say it must be properly debated. One senior SPD lawmaker warned the government not to take their support for granted.

"How we act is still open. Whether we back or reject (the Greek aid) is not yet decided," Thomas Oppermann, SPD parliamentary floor leader said, pressuring the government to allow a full and open debate. (Reuters)

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