German finance minister chides Greeks for seeking debt cut

Thu Jul 18, 2013 8:53am EDT
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By Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Germany's finance minister told Greeks to stop lobbying for more debt forgiveness during a visit to Athens on Thursday that forced authorities to shut the city center and ban protests against the deeply unpopular champion of austerity.

Visiting the country for the first time since its debt problems kindled the euro zone crisis four years ago, Wolfgang Schaeuble's motorcade drove through streets empty except for riot police to meet a packed audience of Greek businessmen.

Germany has been forced to stump up billions in aid to keep Greece and other struggling euro member countries afloat.

His visit came hours after Greece's parliament narrowly passed a scheme to fire thousands of public sector workers to secure an additional 7 billion euros in aid, ignoring mass protests by teachers and policemen outside.

After praising Athens for trying to get its finances back on track, Schaeuble bluntly told Greeks to stop asking for a second debt writedown on the heels of a restructuring last year that imposed massive losses on private holders of Greek bonds.

"My advice is not to continue this discussion," he told businessmen at an event in central Athens.

"We have to stick to what we've achieved. Anything else is not in the best interest of Greece. Another haircut beyond the 53 percent for the private sector in not doable."

Official lenders like the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund now hold more than 90 percent of Greece's debt.   Continued...

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble arrives at an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir