LONDON Feb 24 Italy did more than Greece to
mask the state of its finances to secure euro zone entry, Greek
Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said, adding that
Germany's history made it ill-placed to criticise his country.
The European Union has asked Greece to explain reports that
it engaged in derivatives trades with U.S. investment banks that
may have allowed it to mask the size of its debt and deficit
from EU authorities ahead of its entry into the euro zone.
"You simply put some amounts of money in the next year ...
it is what everybody did and Greece did it to a lesser extent
than Italy for example," Pangalos said in an interview with BBC
World Service radio broadcast on Wednesday.
Greece is under mounting pressure from markets and EU
policymakers to slash its large debt and deficit. It must prove
to Brussels by mid-March that it can meet its ambitious targets
to cut the budget shortfall by 4 percent of gross domestic
product this year to 8.7 percent.
On Tuesday a German state finance minister said Greece had
to help itself out of its precarious fiscal situation and cannot
expect Germany or the European Union to bail it out.
Pangalos criticised Germany's attitute towards the Greek
crisis, saying Athens had never received compensation for the
economic impact of the Nazi occupation during World War Two.
"They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of
Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it
back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the
future," he said.
"I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily
but they have at least to say 'thanks'," he said. "And they
shouldn't complain so much about stealing and not being very
specific about economic dealings."
Greek politicians have been outraged by the tone of media
coverage of the debt crisis in German media, such as a
front-page picture in the weekly magazine Focus of "Venus de
Milo"-type statue making an obscene finger gesture with the
headline "Swindlers in the euro zone".
Pangalos also said the Greek situation would not have
reached this point if there had been stronger leadership within
"The quality of leadership today in the Union is very, very
poor indeed," he said, adding that it had been better in the
1980s when Jacques Delors headed the European Commission and
Helmut Kohl, Francois Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher were in
power in Germany, France and Britain.