BERLIN, Nov 29 — German media accused the government yesterday of deceiving taxpayers over the true costs of saving Greece and said the euro zone would eventually have to write off much of its Greek debt.
The Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament, is expected to vote later this week on the package of measures agreed by euro zone finance ministers late on Monday that aim to cut Greek debt to 124 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020.
The Bundestag’s approval is not in doubt but the chorus of anger and frustration reverberating among German newspapers and lawmakers highlights the growing political risks for Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of next September’s federal elections.
“The never-ending story,” quipped Germany’s best-selling Bild of the latest Greek rescue, depicting Merkel, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and other top officials as characters from the cult fantasy film of the same name.
In a commentary, Bild’s Hugo Mueller-Vogg reached for a medical metaphor to restate the paper’s long-standing opposition to euro zone bailouts it says German taxpayers cannot afford.
“The team of European doctors around the patient’s bed justify the continually rising costs of the treatment with the hope that at some point the expensive medicines will prove effective,” wrote Mueller-Vogg.
None of the doctors will admit that the costs of saving Greece will be great, he said.
The business daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the measures agreed for Greece, which include cutting interest rates and extending debt maturity dates, already amounted to a “haircut” for creditor nations holding Greek debt.
“After these crisis negotiations Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble can no longer maintain that saving the euro costs no money,” wrote Holger Steltzner in the paper.
“(The deal) cannot be described (as a haircut) so that the finance ministers of Germany, Finland and the Netherlands do not lose face,” he said, referring to key creditor nations who require their parliaments to approve the package.
A weary sense of déjà vu pervaded much newspaper coverage.
“Greece is saved — yet again,” sighed business daily Handelsblatt.
London-based German academic Gunnar Beck, in a guest column for Handelsblatt online, said Germany was “tied to a corpse” and said it would be better to cut itself loose despite the benefits the common currency bring for German exporters.
Other newspapers said the special treatment doled out to Greece was unfair on countries such as Ireland and Portugal that have made big sacrifices to get their public finances in order.
Bild said 25 Eurosceptic lawmakers from Merkel’s coalition would vote against the Greece package. This would be embarrassing for Merkel but would pose no threat to its passage.
The main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) have signalled they will not try to block the Greek package in parliament but say it must be properly debated and one senior SPD lawmaker warned the government not to take their support for granted.
“How we act is still open. Whether we back or reject (the Greek aid) is not yet decided,” Thomas Oppermann, SPD parliamentary floor leader, said yesterday, in comments aimed at pressuring the government to allow a full and open debate.
Despite official denials that Greece’s official creditors will eventually suffer some write-off of their debt holdings, some members of Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) said they saw such a move as inevitable.
“I fear that this cannot continue indefinitely without a haircut,” CDU lawmaker Wolfgang Bosbach told Bild.
Juergen Trittin of the opposition Greens agreed, adding that the writedown would come “not before 2016” - well after the German federal elections. — Reuters