Germany hails Greek vote, calls for action
(BERLIN) - Top German politicians led by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday hailed the vote in Greece's parliament agreeing tough austerity moves but insisted the reforms agreed must now be put into action.
Merkel said the vote was "a very important step" on the road to Greece getting back on its feet but stressed there "would not and can not be any changes" to the agreed programme that she said now had to be implemented.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert had said earlier, "we expressly welcome the decision of the Greek parliament in Athens."
"These decisions show the will of the Greeks to take difficult measures to put the country on a good path," he told reporters at a regular government news briefing.
Speaking alongside Merkel, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sought to respond to accusations that reforms demanded of Greece were too harsh.
"These measures are not about torturing anyone," he said, after late Sunday's vote took place against a backdrop of violence, with buildings ablaze and protesters engaging in running battles with police.
Seibert insisted that the unpopular reforms were in Greece's best interests.
"They are reforms in all political areas and they are measures that should step-by-step give the country back its financial room for manoeuvre, which it needs to foster new growth and jobs," he said.
"These measures ... are not savings for savings' sake, cuts for cuts' sake," added the spokesman.
Greece's parliament late on Sunday agreed the raft of unpopular reforms in a bid to secure international aid it desperately needs to stay afloat.
The new austerity measures will pile more hardship on ordinary Greeks, involving a 22-percent cut in the minimum wage, deregulating the labour market to make it easier to lay off workers and a package of tax and pension reforms.
However, the vote "is a contribution to improving the situation," Seibert insisted.
Earlier on Monday, German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said the vote was "a step in the right direction" but warned: "We are still a long way from the goal."
"We want to see what comes after the legislative process because the legislative process is one thing, implementation is another," added Roesler, speaking on ARD public television.
He stressed that the pressure that Germany and the EU had applied on Greece to push through unpopular and harsh austerity measures "had been the right thing to do to push Greece forward."
A spokeswoman for the finance ministry said that "final decisions" on aid for Greece could only be taken "at the beginning of March" when EU leaders meet for a summit in Brussels.
Asked whether Berlin could consider a future for Greece outside the 17-nation eurozone, Seibert insisted: "We want to help Greece. We want to help Greece within the euro."
Seibert also hailed labour market reforms in Spain that have been heavily criticised by unions which fear they will destroy jobs.
Describing the measures as "courageous" and "exemplary", Seibert said the reforms showed that Spain "was determined to learn the lessons from the crisis."
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