Merkel ally fuels Greek aid row before election

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:36am

Germany's commissioner to the European Commission said he expects a new bailout for Greece to amount to a little more than €10 billion (HK$104 billion), fuelling a debate that could hurt Chancellor Angela Merkel in next month's election.

Although EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger does not deal directly with euro-zone debt issues, his comments are the most concrete about the likely size of any new bailout from a senior German politician since the issue burst into the election campaign last week.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had earlier provoked a storm by saying more explicitly than before that Greece would need a third bailout, going much further than Merkel had done. The government has since sought to play down his remark.

Oettinger, a member of Merkel's conservatives, said he thought another package for Greece would be significantly smaller than the second bailout.

"It will be a manageable sum. I personally expect the figure to be a little over €10 billion. The programme should cover the years 2014-2016," he told the Welt am Sonntag weekly. He added that it had not been necessary to bring up the thorny question of Greek aid so soon before the election.

Opposition parties seized on Schaeuble's comments, saying Merkel has been hiding the risks of more aid before the September 22 election in which she is tipped to win a third term.