Greece to seek debt relief after confidence restored: PM

Berlin (AFP) –


Greece's prime minister signalled Wednesday he would seek further debt relief for Athens, but only after confidence is restored in the Greek economy.

During a visit to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Greece's new conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that his country was running large primary surpluses, which exclude debt servicing.

"But I have also said that Greece will maintain its financial aims for 2019 and 2020," he told journalists.

"What we need to do first is to win political credibility as a reform government, and to place growth as the priority.

"And then, there are questions that will be discussed with the creditors and possibly on the bilateral level."

Greece's out-of-control spending had triggered a major eurozone crisis a decade ago, and nearly led to the demise of the single currency bloc.

Since then, Athens has carried out painful reforms in exchange for three bailouts worth 289 billion euros ($330 billion) from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The country exited its third and final international bailout in August 2018.

Nevertheless, its debt load remains high -- with public debt standing at 335 billion euros ($372 billion) or 180 percent of GDP last year.

The debt load is forecast to fall to 168 percent of GDP this year, but only through the belt-tightening brought in by the previous leftist government which Mitsotakis's New Democracy party says is stifling growth.

While in Berlin, Mitsotakis urged German companies to invest in Greece and help the country in its reform path.

Asked about the issue of the Greek parliament's demand for World War I and II reparations from Germany, Mitsotakis said he hoped that Berlin would give a "positive reaction" to a request to open negotiations.

"I believe that solving this problem will be important in ultimately bringing together our two countries," he said.

A Greek parliamentary committee last year determined that Germany owes Greece at least 270 billion euros ($300 billion) for World War I damages and World War II looting, atrocities and a forced loan to the Nazi regime.

In addition, the Greek state accounting office has estimated that private claims for war dead and invalids could be worth a further 107 billion euros.

Germany has repeatedly apologised to Greece for past crimes but insists that when it comes to actual payments, the issue was finalised in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Berlin says all former claims were finally settled with the 1990 Two-Plus Four Agreement signed by the former West and East Germany and the post-war occupying powers the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.