German Finance Minister says new aid possible for Greece

ATHENS (AFP) - Germany's Finance Minister said on Thursday that new financial aid for Greece could be considered if it hauls its budget out of the red, a day after Parliament passed unpopular new austerity measures.

"Possibly there could be a discussion regarding new (aid) towards the end of 2014 if Greece achieves primary surplus," Mr Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters on a visit to Athens.

"Greece has made significant progress, we are on a good path," he added, acknowledging the hardship Greeks have suffered because of the reforms.

The indebted country, now in its sixth year of recession, has been forced to ensure job, pay and pension cuts, in order to secure 240 billion euros (S$395.5 billion) in rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Greece's new sweeping reforms, that puts thousands of jobs on the line but was necessary for the country to receive its next slice of 6.8 billion euros in rescue funds, has caused widespread protests.

"I am very impressed by what Greece has already achieved in rebalancing and modernising the economy," Mr Schaeuble said earlier during his Athens visit.

Mr Schaeuble met Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and other high-ranking officials and was present at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Greece's ministry of development and German bank Kfw.

"For Greece today, as well as for other countries in crisis, the great challenge is to combine fiscal consolidation with economic growth," said Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

Security was tightened during the minister's visit, as Mr Schaeuble is resented by many in Greece who see him as a champion of the painful reforms the country has had to adopt.

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