ATHENS — Germany bluntly rejected on Friday suggestions that Greece should be forgiven repayment of its rescue loans, while a top eurozone official said there was no decision yet on what to do after the country’s bailout program runs out at the end of February.
The comments came as Greece’s new radical left government, voted in last Sunday, sought to make good on its pre-election promises of seeking to write off half of Greece’s debt and reverse the austerity measures that are a condition of its international bailout.
“The discussion about a debt cut or a debt conference is divorced from reality,” Martin Jaeger, a German finance ministry spokesman, said in Berlin.
Jaeger said Greece was obliged to abide by the terms of its 240 billion euro ($270 billion) bailout program agreed by previous governments or endanger the deal.
Without the rescue loans from its fellow eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece would go bankrupt.
“If the measures announced by the new government in Athens were implemented, then one has to ask whether the basis of the program wouldn’t be called into question and therefore pointless,” he said.
In Athens, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who chairs eurozone finance meetings, met with top officials to sound out the new government.
Dijsselbloem said that while Greeks have gone through “a lot” in recent years to reform their economy, progress had already been made.
“Taking unilateral steps or ignoring previous agreements is not the way forward,” he told reporters in statements after his meeting with Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ new government has already said it will not move ahead with several planned privatization projects or aim for budget surpluses required to pay down Greece’s massive national debt.
Greece’s bailout, which began in May 2010, runs out on Feb. 28 after an initial two-month extension was granted.
“We will decide before that time what happens next. That is the position where we are … No conclusions are drawn yet,” Dijsselbloem said.
“As for a call for a conference on debt restructuring, you realize that this conference already exists and it’s called the Eurogroup,” he said, referring to the monthly gatherings of eurozone finance ministers.
Varoufakis, for his part, said Greece was not asking for an extension of the existing bailout, as it disputed the very wisdom of the program in the first place.
“Our intention is to – with an absolute will to cooperate – to persuade our partners … that our common interest in Europe is served best by a new agreement that will emerge following talks between all Europeans,” he said.
He said the new government would not be talking to the bailout negotiators from the “troika” — the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF.
Instead, the minister said, the government would cooperate with the “legitimate institutions of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.”