Juncker says Greek exit from euro 'manageable'

Thu, Aug 9, 2012, 01:00

EUROGROUP HEAD Jean-Claude Juncker has conceded that a Greek exit from the euro zone would be risky but “manageable”.

In an interview with German television, Mr Juncker expressed his annoyance with the permanent stream of euro zone crisis comment from EU politicians, saying “it would be better if more people in Europe kept their mouth closed more often”.

He was referring in particular to Philipp Rösler, Germany’s economics minister and leader of the ruling Free Democrats (FDP), who said recently on German television that a Greek exit had, for him, “long lost its fear factor”.

The Rösler remarks, made during chancellor Angela Merkel’s summer absence, triggered a lengthy political discussion in Germany and have divided the ruling coalition.

A disapproving Mr Juncker suggested politicians “don’t always have to say something” when asked about the euro zone crisis, or a possible Greek exit.

“From today’s perspective it would be a manageable process, which is not to say it would be desirable because it would come with considerable risks, above all for the ordinary Greeks,” he said.

As largest funder of Greek rescue packages, Germany would stand to lose the most if Athens departed the bloc.

“One could say that one doesn’t care what happens to ordinary Greeks – like the miners,” said Mr Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and the son of a steelworker.

“Perhaps it’s all the same to Mr Rösler but not to me.”

Asked if it was possible Greece could drop out of the euro zone suddenly, in a matter of hours or days, Mr Juncker said: “In any case not before the end of the autumn, and not even then.”

He said it was unacceptable that some people in Germany, as well as sections of the media, “talk about Greece in a way as if the people are unworthy of respect. That’s not the case.”

Equally unacceptable, he said, was for the Greek media to portray Dr Merkel as if “she were a Nazi successor”.

To release the next tranche of its €130 billion bailout package, Greece is struggling to cut an additional €11.5 billion off its state spending in the next two years.

As Eurogroup head, Mr Juncker said he had often been annoyed by Greek politicians during the ongoing euro zone crisis.

“What annoyed me was that, after we uncovered so much together of what isn’t working in Greece, repeated attempts to start a discussion about goal-oriented problem-solving failed,” he said.