German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble blames Syriza-led coalition for impasse and ‘acting irresponsibly’ Debt crisis talks are heading to the wire with Germany digging in their heels over Greece's call for new bailout terms. Debt crisis talks are heading to the wire with Germany digging in
The chances of an early end to Greece’s standoff with its eurozone partners appeared to be fading as Germany adopted a hardline approach to easing the debt burden on Athens ahead of crisis talks in Brussels.Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, said the Syriza-led coalition government headed by Alexis Tsipras was “acting irresponsibly” and that he felt sorry for the Greek people.
Schäuble’s comments prompted an instant retort from the Greek government, with a spokesman in Athens saying that Berlin was also acting irresponsibly.
Pressure is mounting on the finance ministers from the 19-strong euro group to find a way of negotiating an extension of Greece’s credit terms before the deadline at the end of the month.
Tsipras said on Sunday that he expected the talks to be difficult but that he was confident about a successful outcome. Greece wants the euro group to ease Greece’s debt burden and to remove some of the conditions imposed in return for a bailout.
Germany has hinted that it would be prepared to see some modest adjustment to Greece’s debts but only if Tsipras continued to abide by the agreements signed by previous governments.
Schäuble said in a radio interview that he was “very sceptical” about the talks.
“I feel sorry for the Greeks at the moment. They’ve elected a government which is currently acting irresponsibly,” Schäuble said.
Kit Juckes, currency strategist at Société Générale, said the eurozone would eventually muddle through.
“Kicking cans down roads is the EU’s forte and the most likely outcome of negotiations with Greece is still that a temporary deal is reached so that talks can continue and funding be maintained for now.”
But Marc Ostwald, of ADM Investor Services, said he felt there would only be limited progress from the talks.
“It appears unlikely that there will be even a short-term ‘bridge’ agreement between Greece and the euro group at today’s meeting, but it is to be hoped that some further common ground can be found.”
The gloomier mood surrounding the talks made it more expensive for the Greek government to service its national debt, currently 175% of annual national output. The interest rate on three-year Greek debt rose by almost 1.5 percentage points to 17.15%, while the interest rate on 10-year bonds was up by just under 0.25 points to 9.74%.
By Larry Elliott, economics editor
Monday 16 February 2015 12.18 GMT
Last modified on Monday 16 February 2015 13.56 GMT