ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s finance minister called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to give his country a “Speech of Hope”, to signal Europe was ready to end its demands for austerity, similar to that given to Germany at the end of World War Two.
In an entry on his blog on Sunday, Yanis Varoufakis compared Greece’s situation with that of post-war Germany, when former U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes traveled to Stuttgart to deliver an historic speech.
That speech in 1946 marked a departure from the punitive approach favored by the nations that defeated Germany and gave its people the prospect of growth and recovery, Varoufakis said.
“Seven decades later, it is my country, Greece, that needs such a chance,” he said.
Greece is running out of cash and unless it quickly receives more aid from its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders it risks default and a possible exit from the euro zone. Athens has so far rejected the creditors’ demands for more austerity in exchange for financial help.
“Greater austerity is being demanded from an economy that is on its knees, owing to the heftiest dose of austerity any country has ever had to endure in peacetime,” said Varoufakis.
“No offer of debt relief. No plan for boosting investment. And certainly, as of yet, no ‘Speech of Hope’ for this fallen people,” he continued.
Varoufakis, who will be in Berlin on Monday to give a speech of his own, has seldom been out of the news since joining the radical left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after January’s election.
However his outspoken remarks have sometimes seemed counter-productive and Tsipras sidelined him last month when he re-shuffled his team to negotiate with the lenders.
During his trip to Berlin on Monday Varoufakis will meet German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, with whom relations have often been strained. Schaeuble’s spokesman said no news conference was planned after the morning meeting.
Varoufakis said in his blog that Greece was committed to making its stricken economy competitive again, but a “Speech of Hope” would make the difference by restoring morale to its citizens.
Merkel should deliver the speech in Athens or Thessaloniki “or any other Greek city of her choice,” he said. It should “mark a sea change, a break with the past five years of adding new loans on top of already unsustainable debt, conditional on further doses of punitive austerity.”
Reporting By Gavin Jones, additional reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin; Editing by Janet Lawrence