BERLIN, Feb 25 (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has not changed his view that Cyprus may not be systemically relevant for the euro zone as a whole, his spokesman said on Monday, after Schaeuble called for swift agreement on a bailout deal for the island.
Earlier, Schaeuble and his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici issued a joint statement welcoming the outcome of Cyprus’s presidential election on Sunday and saying talks must begin soon on an international bailout.
“There is no change of mind. The minister will not be pushed ... but one can strive for (negotiations) to go as quickly as possible,” Schaeuble’s spokesman Martin Kotthaus told a regular news conference on Monday.
“The minister and his French colleague wanted to express hope with their statement that you will get real momentum into the discussion, that that process will be quick (and that) questions such as money laundering, tax issues, sustainability and systemic relevance and such will be addressed quickly,” Kotthaus added.
Eight months of talks on a Cypriot bailout package have turned the tiny island into a big headache for the euro zone, triggering concerns of a financial collapse that could reignite the bloc’s debt crisis.
But Schaeuble has repeatedly questioned whether Cyprus, with gross domestic product of barely 0.2 percent of the euro zone’s output, is large enough for a potential default there to unsettle the 17-nation euro zone, such a risk being a precondition for a bailout.
After the last meeting of euro zone finance ministers earlier this month, Schaeuble said there was no urgency in dealing with Cyprus.
In their statement on Monday, Moscovici and Schaeuble called for discussions to resume shortly “with a view to reach an agreement before the end of March”.
“We call on the troika and the Cypriot authorities to make progress towards finalising the draft Memorandum of Understanding,” the ministers said in their statement.
Cypriot conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades won an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s presidential run-off and promised to quickly finalise a financial rescue to stave off bankruptcy for his heavily indebted island.