Greek euro exit would be 'idiotic', says EU's Tusk

European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium (12 February 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Tusk argues that it is vitally important to keep the euro zone united

European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that a Greek exit from the euro would be an "idiotic scenario".

His comments are at odds with the views of many German economists who have said that any exit risk would be manageable.

Mr Tusk was speaking as new figures showed Greece slipping back into deficit in January and February.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have expressed optimism that a deal can be made with international creditors.

Both men say they are confident that such a deal can be agreed by a 20 April deadline.

Mr Tsipras announced on Monday that he would visit Germany on 23 March to explain his anti-austerity drive and secure the backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Greece's relationship with Europe has become strained since Mr Tsipras's Syriza party won elections in January
Image copyright AP
Image caption The Greek economy has got off to a slow start at the beginning of 2015

The government won elections on 25 January promising to scale back austerity and renegotiate the terms of a €240bn (£176bn; $272bn) international bailout, but it has faced strong opposition from EU partners who are unwilling to offer major concessions.

Additional problems for Mr Varoufakis materialised over the weekend when a highly respected German talk show broadcast video footage of him making a derogatory middle-finger gesture towards Germany in 2013.

The footage appeared on the Guenther Jauch weekly talk show on Germany's ARD channel late on Sunday. It provoked an instant and strong-worded rebuttal from the colourful Greek minister, who was a guest of the programme.

Mr Varoufakis insisted that the video of him making the gesture - before he became finance minister - during an event in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, had been "doctored".

The programme issued a statement on Monday saying it was checking the video but that it appeared to be genuine.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Greece needs a strong economy to continue paying back cash to lenders including the International Monetary Fund

Huge debt

Greece and Germany have had a turbulent relationship since Mr Tsipras's Syriza party came to power promising to end austerity and eradicate most of the country's huge debt.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has been among the most vocal critics of the new government and said on Monday that it had wrecked all the confidence that had been previously regained. He even cast doubt on Mr Tsipras's pledge to raise taxes on wealthy ship owners.

The head of the European Council said he was directing his efforts towards maintaining a united eurozone.

"In Germany, certain experts say that 'Grexit' would be a solution. I don't see anything good in that," said Mr Tusk.

His words were backed by the head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Klaus Regling, who said a deal on Greece's funding was needed because everybody wanted it to stay in the euro currency area.

"We are aware that Greek opinion polls show that a majority of the population do too," he said. "That's a good basis and should make a deal possible."

Greek proposals

Image copyright AP
  • Combat tax evasion
  • Tackle corruption
  • Commit not to roll back already introduced privatisations, but review privatisations not yet implemented
  • Introduce collective bargaining, stopping short of raising the minimum wage immediately
  • Tackle Greece's "humanitarian crisis" with housing guarantees and free medical care for the uninsured unemployed, with no overall public spending increase
  • Reform public sector wages to avoid further wage cuts, without increasing overall wage bill
  • Achieve pensions savings by consolidating funds and eliminating incentives for early retirement - not cutting payments
  • Reduce the number of ministries from 16 to 10, cutting special advisers and fringe benefits for officials

Greek pledges: Key points

Pressure still on despite deal

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