‘Chancellor Schulz’ will maintain austerity, won’t rule out Grexit

Martin Schulz said he interpreted NATOs 2 target as only something to "strive for" and that any government he leads will not ramp up arms spending. [SPÖ/ Flickr]

Martin Schulz will not change Germany’s approach to austerity if elected chancellor later this year. Neither has he ruled out Greece leaving the eurozone if reforms are not implemented. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The Social Democrat leader and former European Parliament president told the Financial Times that the prospect of Greece leaving the single currency is not off the table.

In his first interview with non-German media since taking on the leadership of the SPD, Schulz said that Greece’s membership of the euro club is dependent on “to what extent reforms are implemented” by Athens.

Schulz has up until now vigorously opposed claims by rival parties the CDU and the FDP that Greece’s future may lay outside of the eurozone.

In February, he told Die Welt that any talk of a ‘Grexit’ would be “highly dangerous”. Schulz insisted that “whoever is now talking about Grexit is risking dividing the continent”.

During his time as European Parliament chief, Schulz criticised the very concept of kicking Greece out as “irresponsible”.

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Ahead of Greek parliamentary elections in January 2015, Schulz said that “leaving the euro is not up for debate. Unsolicited counsel […] risks driving voters into the arms of radical forces.”

According to the FT, the SPD candidate also revealed how he would approach Europe’s debt crisis, if elected. He insisted that Germany has a “great interest” in making sure every EU member secures stable growth. “But to get there, certain reforms are needed in these countries,” he added.

Schulz also provided his clearest indication yet that he would not break with the austerity policies championed so far by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. The SPD-man faces a challenge to convince German voters that he is not soft on Greece.

But it was only as recent as January when Schulz branded Europe’s policies as “a serious error”.

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German MEP Fabio De Masi (GUE/NGL) denounced Schulz’s intention to continue with the current government’s approach.

“Martin Schulz confirmed his ‘yes’ to Europe’s austerity policies. He fails to realise that austerity policies are not only destroying Europe, but also European social democracy,” the leftwing politician said in a press release.

The EU lawmaker also highlighted that during his time as Parliament president, Schulz supported a bank bailout that “deepened the depression, mass unemployment and social division in crisis-hit countries”.

Instead of continuing with drastic austerity measures, De Masi called for more EU investment and efforts to reduce Germany’s export surplus, which has almost hit 9% of GDP. He also warned that “the euro will fall if Germany doesn’t reverse it”.

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