FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Patience with Greece is wearing thin, Germany’s vice-chancellor has said, in a blunt warning to Athens that addressed the possibility the country could even leave the euro zone.
The comments in a newspaper from Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democrats (SPD), who have generally been sympathetic to Greece, shows a hardening of attitudes towards Athens across the political spectrum in euro zone paymaster Germany.
Writing in newspaper Bild, Gabriel said: “We want to help Greece and also keep them in the euro. But not only is time running out but so too is patience across Europe. Everywhere in Europe, the sentiment is growing that enough is enough.”
“The shadow of an exit of Greece from the euro zone takes on ever clearer shape,” he wrote.
“Repeated apparently final attempts to reach a deal are starting to make the whole process look ridiculous. There is an ever greater number of people who feel as if the Greek government is giving them the run-around.”
The remarks from Gabriel, who leads Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner and who is also the country’s economy minister, represent the strongest warning yet from the Social Democrats.
So far, resistance to a new bailout for Greece has come mainly from Merkel’s Christian Democrat conservatives.
While some of these lawmakers in the German parliament voted against an extension of Greece’s second rescue program earlier this year, no Social Democrat did.
“If agreement is not reached quickly, the patience of many in Europe could snap,” Gabriel wrote. “We won’t let German workers and their families pay for the exaggerated election promises of a partly communist government.”
Writing by John O'Donnell; Editing by Catherine Evans