As representatives of the Greek government hold an emergency summit with other European Union leaders aimed at finding a way out of Athens’ debt crisis, the Czech minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, has caused consternation in his country’s coalition government by expressing the view that Greece ought to go bankrupt.
However, ahead of crunch talks in Brussels on Monday evening, Europe’s dominant power Germany said there was still no basis for a decision on aid for Athens, fueling speculation that a long-discussed Greek exit from the EU, or “Grexit”, could occur.
Here in the Czech Republic, the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, put a cat among the pigeons with a statement on the subject at a conference attended by the country’s economic diplomats on Monday.
Greece has gone bankrupt four times in the last 200 years, the ANO chief and billionaire told the assembled officials. Mr. Babiš said he believed it was time for it finally to go bankrupt a fifth time in order to “clear the space”.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, was quick to refute the words of his nominal deputy. If Greece went bankrupt it would be detrimental to the whole of Europe, Mr. Sobotka said in a statement.
Eighty percent of Czech exports are to the Eurozone states, so the stability of the Eurozone is in the country’s strategic interest, said the PM. If Greece collapses, the Czech economy will be indirectly affected, he said.
Mr. Sobotka upped the rhetoric against Mr. Babiš, whose ANO lead his own Social Democrats in the opinion polls. The countries of the EU should help Greece, he said, not push it into a corner with strong-arm pronouncements.
The prime minister also said a “Grexit” would heighten a crisis in which refugees are attempting to enter the EU via the Mediterranean; without a functioning Greek state the situation will only get worse.
The leader of the smallest party in the coalition, the Christian Democrats, also rejected Mr. Babiš’s words. His position is definitely not that of the Czech government, said Pavel Bělobrádek.
However, the minister of finance is sticking to his guns. Mr. Babiš said it was clear that Greece could not repay its debts.
He said if states like Spain and Portugal, which were also deeply shaken by the financial crisis, had managed to meet their commitments, there was no reason to make an exception for Athens.
Mr. Babiš said he did not believe it would have an impact on the Czech Republic if Greece went to the wall. The Czech Republic is not engaged in the country, he said.
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