German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the biggest contributor to $325 billion in two bailouts to save Greece, has ruled out a third, although Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that with a 1.5 billion euro ($2.05 billion) primary surplus that his country now doesn’t one anyway.
Merkel overruled her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who had said Greece might need another 10-20 billion euros ($13.63-$27.26 billion) before the May elections held for Greek municipal offices and the European Parliament, the newspaper der Spiegel reported.
Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists, are trailing the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) whose leader, Alexis Tsipras, has predicted will win and eventually come to power.
He is opposed to the terms of $325 billion in two bailouts imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and said he wouldn’t repay the money.
Schaeuble had wanted to give the ailing Greek government a “demonstration of solidarity” by committing this spring to further support from Europe after the May 25 poll.
“He sees the danger that without the prospect of further aid, radical parties in Greece could make big gains in the election,” leading the government in Athens to collapse, the magazine reported.
Besides SYRIZA, the anti-austerity ultra-extremist far-right Golden Dawn party is a solid third in polls even though its leaders have been jailed on charges of operating a criminal gang.
It said Merkel’s own domestic political concerns led her to veto the move over fears that the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) could benefit from a fresh debate about aid for Greece.
The AfD, which wants to abandon the euro and return to the deutschmark, was formed last year and failed to win any seats in September’s general election but scored seven percent in a recent poll, far above the three-percent hurdle for seats in the European Parliament.
Eurozone finance ministers, where Schaeuble represents Europe’s biggest economy, decided in November that Greece could apply for debt relief if it hit a primary surplus although there is already skepticism about whether Greece is as well off in recovering from a crushing economic crisis as Samaras said.
EU Economics Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in an interview that he opposed further help for Athens ahead of the European elections. He told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag that a debate about further debt relief for Greece could be discussed “over the summer or afterwards”.