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German business leaders warn Merkel not to go soft on Greece

Monday, June 22, 2015 - 15:45
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German business leaders urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a tough line with Greece at an emergency summit of euro zone leaders later on Monday, saying only reform concessions from Athens could keep the country in the euro zone.

[BERLIN] German business leaders urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a tough line with Greece at an emergency summit of euro zone leaders later on Monday, saying only reform concessions from Athens could keep the country in the euro zone.

The comments, from the heads of the leading German business federations, reflect a hardening line towards Greece. In past years, the same associations had warned against risking a so-called "Grexit", fearful of the consequences for the European economy. "Greece must deliver today," Ingo Kramer, head of Germany's BDA employers association, told German newspaper Bild. "Only then can Greece actually avert its own insolvency and only then can Greece remain in the euro zone - and that has to be the common goal." Over the weekend, the European Union welcomed new proposals from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a "good basis for progress" at the talks.

His government has so far resisted calls for pension spending cuts and is urging its creditors to provide it with debt relief in return for any concessions.

Ulrich Grillo, president of Germany's BDI industry association, suggested in Bild that the euro zone was not obliged to keep Greece in the bloc. "(Countries) must not be allowed to remain in an economic and currency union at any cost," he said.

His comments were echoed by Eric Schweitzer, president of Germany's DIHK Chambers of Commerce, who said Europe's rules on stability should not be softened or re-interpreted. "Remaining in the euro zone depends on the Greek government making a reliable commitment to a path of reforms and promising proposals."

REUTERS