From daily The Morning Star in Greece:
Bank: Greece must stay on track
Monday 02 July 2012
by Our Foreign Desk
The European Central Bank (ECB) came down with the iron hand today despite its velvet-glove noises about some wiggle room for Greece prior to the recent election.
ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen bluntly told Greece it must fulfil its austerity targets and reform programme “100 per cent” to stay in the euro.
The warning offers little hope of flexibility for Athens and whether it can be given more time to comply.
“If one has identified that something needs to be done, do this quickly,” Mr Asmussen told a financial conference in Athens.
“Don’t wait. Don’t stretch the pain because this is better to restore confidence in an economy.”
Greece’s new government wants to lower some taxes, freeze public-sector lay-offs and extend by two years the mid-2014 deadline for austerity measures demanded by its creditors, conditions that are hugely unpopular in the country.
But Mr Asmussen said: “If the government intends to lower one tax, it will have to increase another tax by the same amount” and when asked whether Greece would get more time to comply, he simply replied: “I don’t think so.”
Mr Asmussen noted that any extension would lead to a need for more external financial help, meaning: “The other 16 eurozone states and the IMF would then have to provide more financing.”
The ECB is part of the so-called “troika” of debt inspectors overseeing the Greek programme, along with the European Commission and the IMF.
France’s socialist President Francois Hollande faced his first major challenge from the country’s financial establishment today: here.