* Merkel's office took issue with idea EU could eject
* Finance Minister Fekter did not threaten Greece -
* Austrian chancellery won't confirm getting call
VIENNA, May 16 German Chancellor Angela Merkel's
staff has complained to Austria about Finance Minister Maria
Fekter's comments this week suggesting that Greece could be
forced out of the European Union due to its economic crisis, a
newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The Oesterreich paper cited no sources for its report that
Merkel's office called Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann's
staff on Tuesday to ask whether Fekter was voicing a new
official policy in Vienna and was told this was not so.
Merkel's staff then made clear such public threats via the
media were "no way" to treat fellow EU members, the report said.
A spokesman for Faymann would not confirm the call, saying
only: "We are in regular contact at cabinet level with the
German chancellery but ...these discussions(are)
An Austrian finance ministry spokesman said the ministry was
unaware of such a call and defended Fekter's comments to
reporters before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in
Brussels on Monday.
"Fekter never threatened to throw Greece out of the EU. She
was asked (by reporters) to comment on various recently
published opinions and statements that Greece should leave the
euro zone," he said in an emailed response to a question.
"She replied that it is technically impossible to leave the
euro zone; one could only leave the EU. She also made it clear
that she is against such a step."
He said her comments were correctly reported by Austrian
media which were present but falsely reported by German magazine
Der Spiegel, which said on its website that Austria was
threatening to throw Greece out of the EU.
"You can't leave the euro zone. You can leave the European
Union, the contract has possibilities there. Once you left the
European Union you also left the euro zone," Fekter had told
reporters, adding Athens would have to reapply for membership.
Fekter had already landed in hot water for her
plain-speaking ways in March, when she had to apologise to
Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker for prematurely divulging
details of a decision to boost the euro zone financial firewall.