PARIS (Reuters) - Questions of Greece exiting the euro or rescheduling its debt are not on the agenda, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told Le Monde newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.
The European Commission wants Greece to remain in the euro zone, he told the French daily.
“It’s important for monetary union - its integrity,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s also important for Greece, which has benefited from considerable European funds, to help it restructure its economy.”
Speculation is growing that Greece’s anti-bailout Syriza party will win the country’s Jan. 25 election and try to renegotiate EU loans and conditions, provoking another standoff between Athens and the rest of the euro group and reigniting investor concerns that the tension will eventually lead to Greece leaving the euro zone - an idea known as ‘Grexit’.
Popular opposition parties in Greece blame years of deep recession on austerity demanded by euro zone sovereign creditors in return for billions of euros of loans to rescue the country from insolvency.
Moscovici said he hoped Greece would continue to be pro-European and favor euro zone membership, whatever the result of the election. The vote was not a potential trigger for a crisis in the currency bloc, he said.
Asked whether the Commission would be willing to negotiate a new schedule for Greek debt with Syriza, he said: ”This question is not on the agenda any more than that of a Grexit.
“We must let the Greeks make their choice. We will discuss the end of the current program of assistance with the new government. Debt is not made to be erased, it must be repaid, at one pace or another.”
Syriza supports euro membership, and the latest public opinion polls show Greek support for the euro at more than 70 percent.
Germany is not planning for a Greek exit from the euro zone and has not changed its policy towards Athens, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said separately on Wednesday, after the Bild newspaper said Berlin was working on contingency plans for such a move.
Reporting by James Regan and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Brian Love