German finance minister says Greeks cannot be 'spared'

A man searches for food in a bin in Thessaloniki, Greece, 5 June
Image caption A man is seen here searching for food in a bin in Thessaloniki this month

The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has said that ordinary Greeks cannot escape painful cuts and must accept them, however they vote.

He told Stern magazine that while he had "really huge sympathy for the man on the street in Greece", he could "not spare him" a cut to the minimum wage.

Germany, the richest eurozone state, strongly opposes relaxing conditions for the bailouts given to Greece.

Mr Schaeuble said Sunday's election in Greece would not change the situation.

Antonis Samaras, head of Greece's main conservative party New Democracy, has again urged voters to reject anti-bailout campaigners.

The country is holding a repeat general election on Sunday after parties failed to agree on a new government following the original ballot on 6 May.

By law, no opinion polls may be conducted in the final two weeks before the election. The last available surveys suggested New Democracy were neck and neck with the far-left anti-bailout bloc Syriza.

'Not easy'

Rigid austerity measures were attached to the two international bailouts awarded Greece, an initial package worth 110bn euros (£89bn; $138bn) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130bn euros.

"In a crisis... the little man suffers and the rich feather their own nests," Mr Schaeuble said.

"It is not easy to cut the minimum wage in Greece, when you think of the many people who own a yacht."

But, he stressed, if Greece wanted to regain competitiveness, the minimum wage "must fall".

"An election result will not change anything about the real situation of the country, which is in a painful crisis due to decades of economic mismanagement," the minister added.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said countries such as Greece that had received bailouts could not expect the conditions attached to be relaxed.

Immigration pledge

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Antonis Samaras said his party would do "everything for there to be a government" after 17 June.

His two conditions, he said, were amending the last bailout in order to create jobs and staying in the eurozone.

"We have to change this programme in order to stimulate job growth... while at the same time we must try to remain with the Eurozone," he said.

The conservative leader also vowed to "take back" Greek cities from illegal immigrants if his party won on Sunday.

"We have to take back our cities from those who have flowed in without any permission whatsoever," the Greek party leader said.

Illegal immigration is a sensitive issue in Greece, where a far-right party, Golden Dawn, won seats in the May election on an anti-immigration platform.

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