German FinMin: It was the Greek Gov’t that Chose to Cut Pensions

It was the Greek government that chose to cut pensions to meet fiscal targets, not the creditors’ suggestion, German Finance Minister Wofgang Schaeuble said in an interview published on Saturday.

Speaking to Greek newspaper Ta Nea , the German finance minister said that it was the Greek administration’s decision to proceed with pension as a fiscal measure. Commenting on Greece’s Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Schaeuble said that his Greek counterpart speaks openly with him, noting that Tsakalotos sometimes calls him to ask for his opinion when he is in a bind.

On former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Schaeuble said that, “He lost his claim for me to take him seriously a long time ago”. On Greece’s bailout program and critiscism that he has been very hard on Greeks, the German minister said that, “I will be pleased to achieve what we all want with the program: to do good things for Greek citizens, Greece to regain access to the markets without a program and not depend on extra help. This must be achieved by the middle of next year.”

On the Greek debt and the Greek government’s insistence on debt easing measures, Scaheuble said that the debt “is not a problem at this time, because Greece does not pay interest-rate subsidies for a long period and has low interest rates. All this is good. In the future, perhaps debt becomes a problem for Greece. We wil discuss it then.” he said.

Schaeuble also said that European institutions will help Greece access international markets. “And when the Greek economy is no longer dependent on aid, we will see if and if further steps are needed,” he said.

“The solution to the problems for Greek people lies only in the improvement of the conditions in Greece. There are progress steps, but they are not as fast as people expect. But it is not right to say that others are to blame,” Schaeuble said.

Asked why Greece’s debt is not slashed in half, like it happened with Germany in 1953, Schaeuble replied: “This is a somewhat limited perspective. The situation in Greece, fortunately, is not comparable to Germany after World War II. Greece receives ESM assistance on terms like all other countries. All these countries succeeded in returning to the markets after a program. Greece is now running the third program. After all, it was (Germany’s) debts of World War I, and Germany had no sovereignty, but four powers of occupation.”