ATHENS – With the ink still not dry on a second bailout for Greece – this one for $172 billion to go along with a first ongoing series of $152 billion in rescue loans to keep the country from going bankrupt, Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he’s not ruling out the possibility the reeling country could need a third bailout. Dow Jones reported that Juncker joined German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble too believed Greece might need yet more aid.
Asked in the context of a television interview whether he would be sure Greece would not need a third package, Juncker said: “This is something we cannot rule out, although we should not start with the assumption that a third program would be required.” But he said he didn’t think Greece would default, adding: “I do not see how Greece could go bankrupt,” although many analysts said it’s a mathematical certainty no matter how much money is poured into the country.
Juncker said ahead of talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Eurozone finance ministers would examine before a March 1-2 European Union summit whether Greece had done what is necessary to unlock the second bailout. “What up to now in the last two weeks has happened in Greece makes me feel hopeful because I have the impression that the Greek government under the leadership of Prime Minister Papademos is taking its job very seriously,” he said in a statement. Greece has to meet a stringent set of conditions by Feb. 29 to get the funds released, and has released a list of $4.4 billion in new cuts, including in pensions, health care and defense.
“National budgetary consolidation is necessary, budgetary consolidation is also first and foremost a job for the states themselves,” said Juncker, who is also Prime Minister of Luxembourg as well as overseeing the 17 countries in the Eurozone that use the euro as a currency. the Luxembourg premier said. “Nobody should think Greece is going to be on its feet again quickly but nobody should also think that Greece is getting back on its feet without our solidarity and without organized growth policy,” he added.
The first two bailouts have come with punishing austerity measures of deep pay cuts, big tax hikes, slashed pensions and the coming firings of 150,000 public workers over the next three years as a condition, but which have created a deep recession of 21 percent unemployment, the closing of 111,000 businesses and nearly two years of protests, riots and strikes to no avail. Juncker did not say if a third bailout is needed if yet more austerity measures would be demanded.