Catastrophic to let Greece leave eurozone, Merkel says

Catastrophic to let Greece leave eurozone, Merkel says

LONDON / ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Catastrophic to let Greece leave eurozone, Merkel says

Police try to disperse protesters demonstrating against austerity policies during a parade in Heraklio, Greece, on March 25. REUTERS photo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it would be “catastrophic” to allow Greece to leave the eurozone because of its debt problems, in a British television interview broadcast yesterday.

Merkel said Athens had a “long and arduous road” to recovery after being forced to seek two international rescue packages, but it would be a “huge political mistake to allow Greece to leave” the single European currency.

“We have taken the decision to be in a currency union. This is not only a monetary decision it is a political one,” Merkel said in a BBC interview, speaking in German through a translator.

“It would be catastrophic if we were to say (to) one of those who have decided to be with us, ‘We no longer want you.’

“Incidentally the (European Union) treaties don’t allow for that anyway. People all over the world would ask, ‘Who will be next?’ The Euro area would be incredibly weakened.”

Asked about the emergence of anti-German sentiment over Berlin’s leading role in dealing with the debt crisis, Merkel said: “The European discussion over the euro has become almost domestic politics.

“We debate very harshly in our parliaments and we use tough words. That has characterized Europe-wide debates too.”

Meanwhile, Greek anti-austerity protesters clashed with police on March 25, marring events planned to commemorate the country’s independence day.

The most serious incident was in Heraklion, the capital of the Greek island Crete, where organizers called off a parade to commemorate the 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire.

Police fired tear gas as hundreds of demonstrators blocked the route set out for the parade, which was then abandoned.

“Holding the parade under police protection and in the presence of tear gas made no sense,” local official Evripidis Koukiadakis said.

In Thessaloniki and Patras, Greece’s second- and third-largest cities, hundreds of demonstrators marched against strict austerity measures demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Independence day marches in those cities were not interrupted, though police made about 180 arrests there and across the country.

March 25 commemorates the uprising that led to the end of nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule.