The Cable

As Obama Wades Into the Euro Crisis, Greek Official Says ‘Nazis’ Are Out to Get Greece

President Obama waded into the eurozone crisis. But a Greek official made clear Athens was no closer to giving in to European demands.

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President Barack Obama called on Athens to make the necessary reforms to end the increasingly tense standoff between Greece and its creditors, a confrontation that could get Greece get kicked out of the European monetary union. But a key Greek official showed little willingness to budge while shifting the blame for the crisis back onto Europe.

Obama has largely stayed out of the eurozone crisis, allowing Germany and France to take the lead as Athens continues to delay debt payments totaling $1.7 billion. Speaking at the G-7 Summit in Germany, Obama said the onus was on the Greeks — not the IMF, the European Union, or the European Central Bank, Greece’s three creditors — to get their financial house in order. If Greece doesn’t pay back a portion of the money it owes by the end of the month, the $270 billion bailout deal, crafted in 2010 after it became clear Greece was running out of cash, will expire.

“The Greeks are going to have to follow through and make some tough political choices that will be good for them long-term,” Obama said, joining a growing chorus of European leaders who are upping the pressure on Athens.

But Greek officials showed no signs of capitulating. In a widely watched speech in Berlin Monday evening, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s job to offer the Greek people a glimmer of economic hope. He said “Nazis” have taken to the streets to demand Greece give into European austerity demands while paying back what it owes.

“If you continue to squeeze our population into misery, we will not be reformable ever,” Varoufakis said, adding Greek children are fainting of malnutrition because of budget cuts. He urged Germans not to buy into the perception that the eurozone is comprised of hard-working “ants” in the north and lazy “grasshoppers” in the south.

Varoufakis said a deal could be done in “one evening, one long night.” But he then went on to list demands Europeans have resisted in the past, including immediate debt relief. He then shifted some of the blame for Greece’s stagnant economy and its refusal to pay its debt back onto the European Union.

Prior to the crisis, German banks were Greece’s biggest creditor, holding some $22.7 billion in Greek government bonds. They’ve limited their exposure since then, but their willingness to lend allowed Athens to hide the fact that it was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“For every irresponsible borrower … there was an irresponsible lender,” Varoufakis said.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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