By Christos T. Panagopoulos
Greece’s financial problems seemed to have played a major role during the debate between German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and her political opponent from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Peer Steinbrück, which was held on Sunday.
Journalists’ questions whether Greece will require a third bailout program forced the two opponents to use 11 of the debate’s total 90 minutes, in order to express their political positions.
Merkel reiterated her party’s political position that there’s a possibility Athens will receive a new bailout program, noting that “nobody knows how things will evolve in Greece or what will be the overall sum to be given to this country, so as to cope with its debt”. “There might be a new supporting plan. Nobody knows how big will this be”, she said and added that “we shall see that in time, based upon the Troika’s reports”.
She also tried to explain that former Chancellor, Gerhardt Schroeder, had done a big mistake about letting Greece to enter the Eurozone, “as the country was not ready at all for such a perspective”. “Not only had the country significant financial deficits, but also its overall structure could not respond to the demands, which a Eurozone country-member must do”, Merkel stressed.
“It is clear that we will help. But the question is how will anybody help; by feeling sorry for this difficult situation? Or helping by encouraging in proceeding in the reforms deemed as necessary?”, Merkel wondered and added that the her duty is not to ease the pressure for more reforms in Greece. “We should not show a wrong type of solidarity, but must follow the principle ‘offer for counteroffer, solidarity and responsibility”, she concluded.
Steinbrück: “We need a second Marshall Plan for Greece”
On the other hand, SPD’s leader, Peer Steinbrück insisted that his party is in favour of the creation of a “Marshall Plan 2” for Greece as well as for countries, which are already confronted by the financial crisis, but express his total disagreement over the implementation of financial consolidation programs solely and in “a fatal dose”.
Steinbrück noted that Germany, which in the past was helped from its country partners, has the political responsibility in the context of the European Union to help those countries which face financial problems.
“Mrs. Merkel’s statement that Greece will probably need a third bailout program consists a confession that the strategy to battle the crisis, in which Germany relied on, has failed. What we lack nowadays is a restructure program, motives for development and a battle against unemployment, especially for the youth”, he said.
Answering to a question whether Greece will ever pay its debts, Steibrück noted: “I hope so, both for Greeks and Germans’ sake, but we must not only wave the club of consolidation. We must help Greece to regain its power. Germany was also helped in the past – I must remind you the Marshall Plan and our fellow countries helped and were pleased for Germany’s reunification, so, by European political responsibility, we must help those countries. So, we need a Marshall Plan 2 for them”.
Moreover, the SPD candidate reminded that in 2012 had stressed “the Eurozone’s stability will cost a lot of money” and characterized the Eurozone as a “redistributive union, from the moment we had bought the first Greek bond”.
“We do not know exactly how much this will cost to us, but eventually it will cost. We will know that only after bonds will expire and will see their price. Since now, we have already given for the ‘bailout umbrella’ as well as for the financial institution about restructure (KfW) approximately 150 billion euros”, Steinbrück added.
Speaking about the crisis, he said that Europe managed the crisis in a wrong manner. This wrong strategy led countries under crisis not to recover, development to remain in a horrible situation and unemployment to rise. He insisted that the euro crisis is in fact a banking crisis, especially in Cyprus, Ireland and Spain and called upon a better system of banking supervision and liquidation of banks at the expense of creditors, and not of taxpayers.