BERLIN (Reuters) - The new Greek government must uphold its commitments to European partners and risks national bankruptcy if it does not, European parliament President Martin Schulz said in a newspaper interview.
“If Greece unilaterally changes the agreements, the other side is no longer obliged to stick to them,” he said in an advance extract of an interview due to be published in business daily Handelsblatt on Thursday.
“Then no more money will go to Greece and the state won’t be able to finance itself,” Schulz was quoted as saying.
He said the Greek government had no choice but to stick to its commitments to European partners, adding that it was only on this condition that they would be able to talk about whether to give Athens concessions.
Asked what those concessions could be, Schulz said there were alternatives to tough austerity measures, adding that neither he nor European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were fans of such policies.
“Everyone in the EU is prepared to make social relief possible for Greece but that can only happen on the basis of the agreements made up until now,” he said.
He also said that if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wanted to recover funds that Greeks had sent abroad during the financial crisis, the European Union would be prepared to help.
“If Tsipras asks, we’ll find ways and means to make it possible to give the treasury access to assets being held abroad in other European countries. That’s also true of accounts in countries with which the EU has tax agreements,” he said.
Greece’s new left-wing government wants to end the monitoring of reforms by the ‘troika’ of International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission.
Schulz said the new government needed to take on responsibility for reform and added: “If it does that, we don’t need the ‘troika’.”
He said it no longer made sense to send officials to Athens where they were perceived as “proconsuls”, adding that the Greek finance minister could simply talk directly with the European Commission and the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers.
In a separate interview with German regional newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten due to be published on Thursday, Schulz said it was necessary to help Greece and put it in a position to fulfil its commitments and serve its debts.
But he said budget austerity and cuts would not, on their own, put crisis-stricken countries back on their feet. Structural reforms and investment in sustainable growth were also necessary.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford