Schaeu­ble com­ments on IMF exit spur de­bate

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble’s sug­ges­tion in com­ments to a Ger­man news­pa­per that the po­ten­tial with­drawal of the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund could ne­ces­si­tate a rene­go­ti­a­tion of Greece’s bailout spurred spec­u­la­tion yes­ter­day both here and abroad.

“A so­lu­tion within the Euro­pean cur­rency sys­tem” would be an al­ter­na­tive if the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund “de­cided for some rea­son to stop par­tic­i­pat­ing,” Schaeu­ble said in an in­ter­view with Sued­deutsche Zeitung pub­lished yes­ter­day. That would re­quire new bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions with Greece, and “the Euro­peans would have to be sharply bet­ter at en­forc­ing the agreed con­di­tions,” he said. Schaeu­ble added that he would have to seek his MPs’ backing for a new pro­gram if the IMF with­draws even as Ger­many pre­pares for gen­eral elec­tions in the fall. Athens sought to put a pos­i­tive spin on his state­ments.

“The pos­si­bil­ity of con­tin­u­ing the pro­gram with­out the IMF, or with its pres­ence but with­out funds and there­fore no cen­tral role, is a devel­op­ment which could lead to a way out of the struc­tural im­passe among the in­sti­tu­tions,” a Greek govern­ment of­fi­cial said in re­sponse to Schaeu­ble’s com­ments. “The view that Europe has an in­sti­tu­tional sup­port frame­work by it­self is not new,” the of­fi­cial added. “It keeps gain­ing ground among Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions and it is wel­comed by the Greek side as long as the ini­tia­tives and de­ci­sions are taken fast.”

In Ber­lin the mood was very dif­fer­ent. The Ger­man Fi­nance Min­istry played down Schaeu­ble’s com­ments, not­ing that they were a re­sponse to a hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario. It said that Ber­lin wants the IMF on board with the Greek pro­gram and that the Fund would take its de­ci­sion on con­clu­sion of the cur­rent bailout re­view.

The sense in Ger­man me­dia cir­cles is that the bailout re­view will fin­ish no sooner than mid-March, af­ter gen­eral elec­tions sched­uled to take place in the Nether­lands. One jour­nal­ist with close ties to the Ger­man min­istry told Kathimerini that Schaeu­ble be­lieves the de­mands of euro mem­ber­ship are weak­en­ing Greece both fi­nan­cially and po­lit­i­cally. “In other words, the euro is too heavy for you,” the source said.

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