Austria says Greece could get two-three extra years

Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:10am EDT
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VIENNA/BERLIN (Reuters) - Greece should get more time to repay its debts provided that it sticks to reforms and savings targets agreed with the European Union, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said, taking a softer line than neighbor Germany, which has so far opposed any delay.

Greece's future and whether it stays in the euro zone is expected to be shaped by a series of crunch meetings next month and a progress report from European Union and IMF inspectors on public sector cuts required in exchange for billions in aid.

Germany and France both said after meetings with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras this week that Greece's leaders must show their commitment to reform, and Germany is showing little inclination to consider any delay.

But Austria and others in the euro zone's "core" of stronger economies have often provided advance warning throughout three years of crisis of the line the bloc's leaders will finally take.

"I see quite a good chance that we will arrive at an outcome with Greece that the Greeks stick to their agreements with the EU but in return get more time for the repayment," Faymann told newspaper Oesterreich in an interview published on Sunday.

"The most important thing is that the Greeks stick to the reforms and savings targets agreed with us. If that is guaranteed, I am in favor of a delay in the repayment," he said, adding that the delay could be two or three years.

German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler reaffirmed Germany's stance in an interview with broadcaster ZDF on Sunday.

"The request of the Greeks for a half year or even two years more (to implement their reforms) cannot work because it is not only a question of time... Everybody must recognise that time always means also money," he said.

"If the reforms are not undertaken there can be no further aid," Roesler said in comments that echoed those of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in an interview published in the Tagesspiegel on Sunday newspaper.   Continued...