Schaeuble: Greece has left a difficult time behind and succeeded in its reforms

Greece has left a difficult time behind and succeeded in its reforms, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Berlin after meeting with Greek Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday.

At joint statements after the meeting, Schaeuble said, “Greece has left difficult years behind it. These years are successful; the reforms made a lot of progress. Today, Greece is, economically and as regards fiscal indicators, in a better position that most thought possible three of four years ago. This shows that the course of solidarity and reforms was the right one. It was a tiring path for the Greek people, but it was worth it.”

Speaking about the Eurogroup’s decision to grant Greece a two-month extension to complete its fiscal adjustment programme – a decision that must be finalised by national parliaments of eurozone states – the German minister said that the Eurogroup is “prepared for a successful outcome of the programme, to provide a preventive line of credit, but this is a step for after the successful completion of the current programme.”

The extension of the programme to the end of February instead of December 31 will allow Greece to complete it and the troika of Greece’s lenders to provide the final evaluation before the last loan tranche is released.

Adding that “the targets that have been met are encouraging for everyone,” Schaeuble asserted that “Greece can continue to depend on the solidarity of Europe and Germany.”

In his statements, Venizelos said, “Thanks to European solidarity, but mainly thanks to the efforts of Greek society itself, the Greek economy is now in a completely different position,” stressing that it “has shown a primary surplus, a positive growth rate, and a stable banking system.”

Lauding the German minister’s support and efforts as “a decisive figure in the Eurogroup” and “the most authoritative collocutor one can have,” the Greek minister added that political stability in Greece was “the major issue.”

A “clear political horizon” is needed, he added, to complete the fiscal programme, therefore the election for Greek president was moved forward by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and himself. The elections, he said, will allow the government to “have at [its] disposal 18 months – up until the end of the parliamentary term – to ensure that the Greek economy takes off.”

Completing the programme would bring the completion of the troika’s evaluation so that the country can “transition to a completely different status: the status of a line of credit, protective armor for the Greek economy, but under completely different conditions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Eurogroup Working Group completed a teleconference meeting to discuss Greece’s smooth transition to the preventive line of credit (enhanced conditions credit line, ECCL) on Wednesday evening.

The Group will convey to European parliaments the Greek formal request for an extension of its fiscal adjustment programme to end-February. Greece has also committed to implementing the memorandum of understanding’s provisions in order for the troika of the country’s lenders to complete the fifth and final evaluation.

A favourable completion of the evaluation will lead to the disbursement of the last loan tranche of 1.8 billion euros from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) programme.