BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Reuters on Monday that Berlin did not like the new Greek government’s closeness to Russia and said aid from Moscow was not a viable substitute for European assistance for Athens.
Asked to what extent the dealings between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ new government and Russia were a cause for concern, Schaeuble said: “We don’t like that.”
“I don’t believe that Russia can replace European solidarity,” he said at the Reuters Euro Zone Summit.
Greece’s new government initially appeared to challenge European consensus on economic sanctions against Russia and Moscow said it would consider offering aid if Athens asked.
But Greece signed up to extending the existing Western sanctions and on Monday Tsipras ruled out seeking aid from Russia.
Schaeuble said it was not in Germany’s interests for Russia to suffer economic difficulties.
“It’s in our interest to cooperate closely and reasonably with Russia and for Russia to contribute to a stable global economic development,” Schaeuble said at his ministry in Berlin.
He brushed aside European and international criticism of Germany’s rising trade and current account surpluses, which is likely to surface again at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Turkey next week, blaming them in part on the European Central Bank’s monetary policy.
The Ifo institute said Germany’s current account surplus was likely to have hit a new record in 2014.
“That’s also to do with the ECB’s monetary policy and the exchange rate,” he said. “If we start having a debate about rising German surpluses, I’ll say ‘That’s also a result of the weak euro which many people wanted’.”
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Reporting by Michelle Martin and Gernot Heller, editing by Paul Taylor