Visiting German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble praised Greece on Thursday for its progress on economic reforms, a day after Parliament narrowly passed a sweeping austerity bill putting thousands of jobs on the line.
Security was tightened during the visit, as Mr. Schaeuble is a hate figure to many in Greece for championing the painful reforms that the heavily indebted country has had to undertake in exchange for billions in rescue funds.
Greece, now in its sixth straight year of recession, has been forced to undertake job, pay and pension cuts, to secure €240 billion in rescue funds put up by EU and the IMF. “I am very impressed by what Greece has already achieved in rebalancing and modernising the economy,” Mr. Schaeuble said, adding that Germany is ready to invest in a fund that provides liquidity to Greek companies.
Mr. Schaeuble’s visit came just hours after the Greek Parliament approved a new bill of reforms outlining the redeployment of 25,000 civil servants, despite days of street protests.
Thousands of civil servants — including teachers and municipal police — have eight months on reduced salaries to find new posts, or accept those offered to them. Otherwise, they will lose their jobs. Greece needed to approve the bill to receive 6.8 billion ($8.9 billion) in rescue funds, s approved by eurozone Finance Ministers last week.
Shortly before heading off to Athens, Mr. Schaeuble told German public radio his visit “is a sign of encouragement that we support Greece on its difficult path”.
“We have confidence in what Greece is doing... we of course have to insist that Greece continue on this difficult path of pushing on with the agreed reforms,” he added. — AFP