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EU ponders Greek debt fallout

Monday, January 26, 2015 - 02:18

Debt forgiveness may not be on the table, but EU leaders are hinting Greece may get more time to pay back its debts. As David Pollard reports, that may be difficult to square with Europe's biggest ecoomy, Germany and its electorate.

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A comeback for the Left. A Greek election euro shock. It depends on the newspaper you read. Germany's a big opponent to any slippage on austerity or debt repayment. With headlines to match. And public opinion. SOUNDBITE (German) RALF KASKE, SAYING: "I don't think it's a good result, at least for Germany. I also think it's a mistake for the Greeks. They won't succeed without reforms. And it means the European Union has to rethink Greece's future in the Union, whether it will abandon the euro or not." That for Europe and its biggest economy is the dilemma. One newspaper estimates 80 of Greece's 240 billions of bailout euros come from German pockets. That's a sore point, says BGC Partners' Mike Ingram. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKETS ANALYST, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: ''I believe one of the German words for debt is guilt, and therefore Greece is very very 'guilty' and therefore if they don't pay their debt they must be punished, though the Greeks would argue they've been punished enough. So yes, there's been hardly any sign of movement from Germany at this point in time.'' Or is there already some hint of concession from policymakers? Among them, ECB board member Benoit Coeure. At Davos this weekend, he warned unemployment and low growth threatened the very euro zone itself. He's ruling out forgiving debts, but signalled there could be more time to repay them. There's a similar nod from European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. Who was also asked about a possible Greek exit from the euro zone. SOUNDBITE (German) EU COMMISSIONER GUENTHER OETTINGER SAYING: "That has to be decided first and foremost by Greece. We do not seek an exit. We believe that the risks exist and therefore must not speculate about an exit." Greece's new leaders are on record as not wanting a Grexit. Many see it as the worst possible scenario. A worry that could give Alex Tsipras some room for manoeuvre in his first talks with creditors. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKETS ANALYST, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: ''What we're likely to see is what we saw at the end of 2012 was effectively a net present value write-down of Greek debt, an extension of maturities, still further at the moment a lot of Greek debt actually matures in the 2030s and a further reduction in the coupons which are being paid to the Troika.'' Concessions though may hinge on a Greek pledge to continue with austerity. The very thing Tsipras has promised to end.

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EU ponders Greek debt fallout

Monday, January 26, 2015 - 02:18