German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said that while the worst of the euro crisis has been overcome, there is still work that needs to be done.
Speaking in Greece for the first time since 2010 as he looks to build confidence ahead of the German elections in the autumn, Schäuble said Greece has taken big steps to rebuild its economy and is showing its first successes in its reform.
The finance minister added that Greek companies have a lot of potential, but access to capital is a crucial problem that must be overcome. Accelerating privatisation would also be essential. He confirmed that €100m in loans would be made available to Greek companies through the German development bank.
Crucially, he said that debate over more debt restructuring in Greece is counterproductive and could destroy confidence (not something he wants ahead of election time). If Greece has fulfilled its obligations and there is a primary surplus in 2014, he added, then further aid could be discussed.
Schäuble’s visit has not been without its controversy, with many in Greece blaming the Germans on the harsh austerity terms imposed upon them. Panos Kammenos, head of the right wing anti-austerity party Independent Greeks, has called him an "economic murderer”. The situation may not have been helped by orders not to protest in central Athens during his visit.
Greece: tells you something when 4000 police officers are on duty for a visit by German Fin Min Wolfgang Schaeuble to Athens. #Greece— Gavin Hewitt (@BBCGavinHewitt) July 18, 2013
Greece continues to be dogged by political pressures from the troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) and the people. While there are few who disagree cuts are needed, powerful interest groups stand in the way of actually making them when the time comes.