German vice chancellor Gabriel urges Greece debt relief
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Monday urged debt relief for Greece, arguing that more austerity would kill off the "little green shoot of economic recovery".
The demand by the centre-left Social Democrat Gabriel, who is also economy minister, appeared at odds with the sterner approach of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
As eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels to discuss Greece, Gabriel said in Berlin that what was needed was "to finally take a step so that Greece doesn't have to beg anew every year for more credit".
"Something needs to be done to reduce the debt burden," he said.
Gabriel pointed out that, after years of crisis, Greece was now "seeing economic growth for the first time".
"And what some are now demanding, the next step in the savings programme, will destroy this little green shoot of economic recovery in Greece, and so it must not become European policy."
A spokeswoman for the economy ministry, Beate Braams, said Gabriel had made his comments "in his role as party chairman" of the Social Democrats, with the aim of "giving Greece a perspective" toward recovery.
The top spokesman for Merkel, Steffen Seibert, said that the German government's position had not changed, and that ways to reduce the debt burden would not be considered before reform demands are met.
Eurozone finance ministers met Monday to hammer out fresh reforms for Athens to stave off another eurozone crisis.
They were expected to complete a long-stalled first review of Greece's massive EU-IMF bailout and discuss new debt relief measures.
The Brussels meeting follows mass public opposition to newly adopted austerity measures in the cash-strapped country.
© 2016 AFP