Greece must fulfill the targets of its austerity and reform program “100 percent” to stay in the euro, a top European Central Bank official said Sunday, July 1 – offering little hope of substantial wiggle room for Athens and questioning whether it can be given more time to comply, the Associated Press reports.
Greece’s new government wants to lower some taxes, freeze public sector layoffs and extend by two years the mid-2014 deadline for austerity measures demanded by creditors in exchange for loans that are keeping the country afloat, conditions that are hugely unpopular in the country.
But ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen told Germany’s ARD television that there can be no departure from the aims of consolidating Greece’s budget and restoring its competitiveness.
“The so-called mix of measures – in other words, how do I reach the target – one can talk about that,” he said. But that, he added, means that “if the government intends to lower a tax, it will have to increase another tax by the same amount.”
Asked whether Greece would get more time to comply, Asmussen replied: “I don’t think so.” He noted that any extension would lead to a need for more external financial help – “that means that the other 16 eurozone states and the IMF would then have to provide more financing.”
The ECB is part of the so-called “troika” of debt inspectors overseeing the Greek program, along with the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. On Monday, the inspectors are expected to start their review of the country’s finances and meet with the new government. Their conclusions will be critical to whether Greece will be able to renegotiate parts of its international bailout conditions.
“My preference and the preference of the ECB is very clearly that Greece remains in the eurozone,” Asmussen said. “For that, the country must implement 100 percent the program targets that were agreed.”
An exit, he said, would make things economically difficult not just for the country leaving the eurozone but also for all the others.