TOKYO (AFP) – The head of the group of eurozone finance ministers promised Tuesday to work with the winner of the upcoming Greek election, but urged Athens to stick with austerity.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup who also serves as the Dutch finance minister, also stressed that the region could offer more help should Greece keep its promise to reform.
“Whomever will be the new government, we will work with them,” Dijsselbloem told a small group of journalists after a private lecture in Tokyo. It does not upset our policies. It does not upset our cooperation with the Greeks.”
“If Greeks stick to their side of the deal… if necessary we are prepared to do more,” he said, adding that “a lot” has already been done to rescue the country.
The comment came amid global market fears that Greece could fall out of the euro – an eventuality dubbed the “Grexit” – if anti-austerity party Syriza wins the election on January 25.
Party leader Alexis Tsipras has insisted Greece would keep the single currency, but he wants further debt reduction and has left open the possibility of defaulting on the country’s hefty repayments.
Dijsselbloem urged Greek voters to see the financial reality in their troubled nation.
“It’s crucial… that Greece is once again financially and economically independent,” he said.
“All politicians, all governments work within the constraints you have. If you don’t have enough money coming in, you cannot spend it. If you cannot find lenders to finance your budget, then you cannot spend your budgets.”
Dijsselbloem said the current bailout programme must run its course until its end in March, before Greece negotiates its future financial direction.
“A lot of effort has been put in, mainly by the Greek people. The recovery is starting. It would be a great waste if we were to allow that recovery to be lost again,” he said.