June 17, 2015 / 7:53 AM / in 2 years

Merkel's Bavarian allies say Greeks act like 'clowns' in debt talks

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies have accused the Greek government of not having grasped the seriousness of the situation in the debt talks yet, with CSU Secretary-General Andreas Scheuer calling ruling politicians in Athens “clowns”.

General secretary of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Andreas Scheuer delivers his speech at the party's traditional Ash Wednesday meeting in Passau February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Lukas Barth

The remarks were the latest sign of hardening positions toward Greece among European politicians, on the eve of a meeting of euro zone ministers that could be the last chance to rescue Greece from default at the end of the month.

Scheuer said in an interview with Rheinische Post newspaper published on Wednesday that Greece had done too little so far to stay in the euro and there would be no “careless compromises” just for the sake of keeping Greece in the single currency bloc.

“The Greek government apparently hasn’t realized the seriousness of the situation yet,” Scheuer said.

“They are behaving like clowns sitting in the back of the classroom, although they have received explicit warnings from all sides that they might fail to pass to the next grade.”

Another CSU politician, Hans Michelbach, said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had told a closed-door parliamentary committee meeting in Berlin “that there are no preparations to reach a decision” at the finance ministers’ meeting on Thursday.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there was nothing new to report on the talks with Greece but that Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers would be important.

He told a news conference it remained Germany’s goal to keep Greece in the euro zone, but stressed Athens must carry out the necessary structural reforms.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accused creditors of trying to “humiliate” his nation, which is set to default on a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund on June 30, possibly driving it toward the euro zone exit, unless it receives fresh funds.

GROWING OPPOSITION

Merkel said on Tuesday she was willing to do all she could to keep Greece in the euro zone but insisted the onus remained on Athens and its creditors to break a deadlock and reach a deal.

The chancellor is facing growing opposition among her ruling conservatives to granting Greece any further bailout funds. Germany is Greece’s biggest creditor and the biggest contributor to the EU budget and the euro zone bailout fund.

Her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, who have traditionally taken a slightly softer line with Greece, have also sounded increasingly uncompromising.

Privately, one conservative lawmaker, who in February voted in favor of an extension of Greece’s bailout, said he now saw little choice but for Greece to adopt a parallel currency.

Additional aid would not address the Greek economy’s need for reform, added the lawmaker, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Klaus-Peter Willsch, a dissident lawmaker from Merkel’s conservative party who repeatedly voted against bailing out Athens, told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday that in his view it would be no big deal if Greece were to leave the euro zone.

“This wouldn’t be the end of Europe,” Willsch said.

Additional reporting by Paul Carrel and Gernot Heller; Editing by Peter Graff and Philippa Fletcher

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