Dutch finance minister says has not given up on Greece

AMSTERDAM Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:21pm BST

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government has not given up on the rescue of Greece and is determined to do everything possible to save the euro zone, the Dutch finance minister told members of parliament on Wednesday.

"To be clear ... this Cabinet has the firm will to do everything possible to save the euro or the euro zone," Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager told members of parliament.

He strongly denied Dutch media reports that the government expected Greece to default, and reiterated comments he made this week that the Netherlands was examining various different scenarios, which included a possible default.

De Jager was responding to questions from members of a parliamentary finance committee in a debate over proposed changes to the euro zone bailout fund, or EFSF, as agreed in July by European leaders.

That measure is considered crucial for stabilising financial markets, but several members of parliament, even from pro-European parties, expressed reservations about it.

Elly Blanksma, a member of parliament for the Christian Democrat party which is part of the minority government, asked De Jager whether he still thought that Greece's debt was manageable.

"If that is no longer the case, then we have a different situation," she said.

Earlier, parliament backed a motion from the anti-immigration Freedom Party asking the government to outline the costs to the Netherlands if Greece defaults on its debt, alongside other scenarios such as a collapse of the euro.

With parliament as a whole due to vote on the proposed changes to the EFSF this month or in October, the debate indicated that parliamentary approval cannot be taken for granted although it is still likely.

The Netherlands, alongside Finland, is one of a handful of euro zone countries seen as having the potential to upset the broader goal of giving the EFSF more firepower to deal with future crises.

Public and political enthusiasm for such huge bailouts has faded in recent months.

The minority Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition usually depends on Geert Wilders' Freedom Party for a majority in parliament.

Wilders, a staunch eurosceptic, strongly opposes euro zone bailouts, which means that the government has tended to rely on the pro-Europe opposition parties, particularly Labour, which is the second-largest in parliament, to get broad approval for such rescues.

However, with opinion polls showing that the public is growing disenchanted over such expensive bailouts, there have been signs of dissent within the Liberal party and the Labour party, which complained that Prime Minister Mark Rutte has miscommunicated details of the bailout to parliament.

(Editing by Sara Webb and James Dalgleish)

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