BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has rejected calls to give Greece more time to reach budget goals agreed with international lenders for its third bailout program as it grapples with the migrant crisis.
Austria’s recent imposition of border restrictions set off a domino effect in Europe that has left tens of thousands of migrants stranded in Greece, placing additional burdens on a country relying on an economic recovery after six years of recession.
“The refugee issue and the aid program for Greece should not be mixed,” a spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Reuters on Sunday when asked about European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s suggestion that Greece be given more time to resolve its budget problems.
The idea was also rejected by Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest bloc in the European Parliament.
“Anyone who waters down the European stabilization policy in the migrant crisis plays with fire,” Weber told several local newspapers. “The European debt rules must not be weakened. And this also applies for the reform conditions for Greece.”
Schulz, a leading member of Germany’s co-governing Social Democrats, had argued that the migrant crisis was affecting Greece more than other EU countries because of its geographic location, causing additional budget problems.
“Consequently, we have to show more flexibility in regard to the application of deficit criteria,” Schulz said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said on Saturday that Greece needed to deliver quickly on its promise to provide accommodation for 50,000 refugees and the European Union should help Athens with the task.
Euro zone finance ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday, with Greece expected to be the main topic on the agenda after negotiations have stalled between Athens and its creditors -- the euro zone, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
A first review of economic reforms under the bailout plan agreed last August, which Greece wants concluded fast to move on to debt-relief talks, has been held up by disagreement among the lenders over how much more Athens needs to save in public spending, notably on pensions.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by David Goodman