Failing to continue Greek programme would be ‘irresponsible,’ Gabriel says

Failing to continue the Greek programme would be an “irresponsible action,” Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the Greek newspaper “To Vima” published on Saturday. At the same time, he added, it was necessary that Greece “implement its reform commitments, which must be accompanied by compromises on all sides.”

Gabriel expressed hope that an agreement will soon be reached so that the second review of the Greek programme can be completed as soon as possible. He also noted that Europe’s future cannot be protected by breaking it up and stressed that “no one wants this and Germany least of all.”

The German vice chancellor referred to closer European cooperation in foreign policy, defence and security but said that now was not the time to begin a discussion on changing European treaties, since that would “deepen existing cracks” and was a “luxury we cannot afford.”

Asked about a rise in euroscepticism, populism and nationalism, Gabriel said it was a mistake to think that the “EU promise of prosperity is an automatism” and noted that growth must not be “strangled” through excessively severe fiscal targets. The conviction that economic growth was sufficient in order to convince people about the value of democracy and freedom was incorrect, Gabriel said, while expressing admiration for the Greeks’ “unswerving support of Europe” in spite of their truly difficult economic situation.

The German foreign minister also made it clear that the door to the EU remained open for the Western Balkans, “which are at a crossroads,” while not concealing his concern about events in that area or in neighbouring Turkey. He especially expressed his irritation over the Turkish president’s frequent comparisons between present-day Germany and the Nazi period in the country, noting that “there is always the next day in diplomacy, when you have to work with the other once again on very specific issues. It would be good if our Turkish partners kept that in mind. We are partners in NATO and partners in the region, in the fight against terrorism.”

Gabriel said it was important to continue a common stance regarding EU sanctions against Russia, in response to its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, while noting that Russia cannot be sidelined and that talks with Russia on issues where there are differences must continue.