Schulz has not ruled out Greece leaving the crumbling Eurozone
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrat party said in an interview that Greece’s future was dependant on how it implements reforms.
Mr Schulz appears to be adopting Angela Merkel’s line on the debt-ravaged country along with that of her hawkish finance minister Wolfgang Schauble in a bid to bag votes.
It comes as the former president of the European Parliament faces increased pressure from German voters to prove that he is not soft on Greece and other Eurozones that are swimming in debt.
In order to become leader, he must show that he too will act tough on Greece – just like Mrs Merkel – who is seen as being reliable on fiscal lapses.
But it is an uphill battle, as a poll, conducted by the ZDF TV Channel, showed that 34 per cent of likely voters consider Mrs Merkel more trustworthy than her SPD rival Mr Schulz.
Mr Schulz is now making several U-turns on policies that he previously championed.
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One of these was a suggestion of mutualising the eurozone’s debts by issuing eurobonds – an idea that was opposed by Mrs Merkel and which Mr Schulz has now ditched.
He said: “The only interesting thing about bonds is James.”
He added that he scrapped the idea because it had been made redundant by the creation of the European Stability Mechanism, the euro area’s bailout fund.
However, Mr Schulz has remained steadfast on his plans for Nato spending – which could put him at odds with the US president Donald Trump, the FT reports.
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Schulz appears to be adopting Angel Merkel’s line on the debt-ravaged country of Greece
The German government is committed to lifting overall German defence spending from 1.2 per cent of GDP to 2 per cent in line with its Nato commitments.
But Mr Schulz said he was “not of the view that it has been agreed in Nato that we have to achieve this goal of 2 per cent of GDP”.
He said that would mean “more than €20billion or more of additional defence spending a year over the next few years”, which would be a “significant financial burden on Germany”.
VIOLENCE erupts as Greek farmers clash with police in Athens
Wed, March 8, 2017
Greek farmers clashed with police in central Athens on Wednesday when a protest against tax and pension reforms mandated by the country's multi-billion-euro bailout turned violent
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Farmers with shepherds crooks clash with riot policemen during a protest outside the Greek Agriculture Ministry on March 8, 2017 in Athens
He added: “That is certainly not the goal that a government led by me would pursue.
“What we need is not a new arms race but disarmament initiatives, and more investment in prevention. That would serve our security better.”
The SPD leader appears unwilling to soften Germany’s pro austerity position if he is elected Chancellor next year – as many in the EU had hoped.
Mr Schulz, a former bookseller, who does not fit the mould of former Chancellors of Germany, is not going to mess with the policies that Germany has, if elected.
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He said that there would be no big shift on Germany’s no-nonsense approach to debt reduction and structural reform.
He insisted that Germany would ensure all EU member states would achieve stable growth, “but to get there, certain reforms are needed in these countries”.
His rhetoric is very different to when he was president of the European Parliament.
Then, he opposed austerity and argued for a more lenient approach towards southern Europe.
At the height of the Greek debt crisis, in 2012, he said there was a “bizarre situation in Europe” when 26 of 27 countries were in favour of giving more aid to Athens and only one was against.
Greece is among a host of eurozone countries that are struggling with debt.