September 1, 2018 / 7:20 PM / in 2 months

Former Eurogroup head Dijsselbloem says demands on Greeks were too heavy

Outgoing Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem gestures as he holds a news conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Euro zone countries have asked for too much from the Greek people in return for international bailout loans, former Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview on Dutch television on Saturday.

“On reforms, we have asked a lot from the Greek people, too much,” Dijsselbloem told current affairs program Nieuwsuur. “Reforms are hard enough to accomplish in a society with a well-functioning government, but this was obviously not the case in Greece.”

Greece emerged from the biggest bailout in economic history on Aug. 20, after receiving 288 billion euros in financial aid since 2010, with the European Union as its biggest lender.

During the crisis, the Greek economy shrank by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and driving thousands to move abroad.

“Greece is obviously not a success story,” Dijsselbloem said. “Their crisis has been so deep, that you can’t call it a success.”

Dijsselbloem chaired the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers from 2013 until the beginning of 2018, and led dozens of lengthy emergency meetings during which bailouts for Greece, Cyprus and the Spanish banking sector were grudgingly pieced together.

He left national politics after his Labour party was heavily defeated at elections last year, and is set to publish a book on his time as head of the Eurogroup.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Helen Popper

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