BERLIN — Greece won’t leave the 17-nation eurozone, Luxembourg’s prime minister said, arguing in an interview published Saturday that an exit wouldn’t be politically feasible and would carry unforeseeable risks.
Greece has been kept afloat by international loans, but has fallen behind on implementing reforms and austerity measures demanded in exchange, fueling impatience in Germany and other prosperous nations and speculation about a possible euro exit.
But Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who also chairs eurozone finance ministers’ meetings, was quoted as saying in an interview with Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung: “It will not happen — unless Greece violates all the conditions and keeps to no agreements.”
“In the case of a total refusal by Greece regarding budget consolidation and structural reforms, one would have to deal with the question,” he said, according to the report. “But because I assume that Greece will try to redouble its efforts and achieve the targets that have been set, there is no reason to assume that this exit scenario can become relevant.”
Juncker said an exit would be “technically,” but not “politically” feasible and insisted: “We are not working on it.”
There’s little enthusiasm among creditors such as Germany for granting Greece more time to fulfil the terms of its international aid packages or other concessions. Juncker said it wasn’t possible to say whether Athens might be granted more time before a report next month from its debt inspectors, but he doesn’t currently consider an extension “absolutely necessary.”
Germany’s vice chancellor, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, said recently that the idea of Greece leaving the euro has “lost its horror.” A regional official with one of the country’s governing parties, Bavarian state finance minister Markus Soeder, has called for Greece to leave the currency this year and argued that “an example must be made of Athens.”
There has been no such talk from Chancellor Angela Merkel or Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, though they also have shown little appetite for concessions.
“I have always said that we can help the Greeks, but we cannot responsibly throw money into a bottomless pit,” Schaeuble said during an appearance Saturday at his ministry’s annual open day.
He conceded that “it is immensely difficult for the Greeks,” and said that Germans shouldn’t speak “disrespectfully” of other nations.