PARIS (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his French counterpart Francois Baroin said on Tuesday that the worst of the euro zone crisis appeared to be over, but warned member states that was no excuse to skimp on difficult reforms.
“We can say that the worst is behind us, but we cannot relax our efforts,” Schaeuble told a conference in Paris. “I think we can say with a 50 percent probability that the worst is behind us.”
With some in Germany voicing concern about the European Central Bank’s recent injection of 1 trillion euros of liquidity into the euro zone banking system, Schaeuble said he was not concerned about the ECB’s monetary policy.
The ECB had demonstrated its independence and had a track record of good decision making, Schaeuble said. Its decisions “do not entail an inflationary risk,” he said, suggesting that reports of a disagreement between ECB President Mario Draghi and Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann had been exaggerated.
Baroin echoed his German colleague’s comments, stressing the need for euro zone countries to press ahead with economic and fiscal reforms: “If the question is whether the worst of the crisis is behind us, one can say yes ... If we do not deviate from our path, the worst is behind us.”
With the Socialist frontrunner in France’s presidential elections threatening to renegotiate a budgetary pact signed by 25 European leaders this month, Schaeuble said that bailout agreements such as those signed by Ireland, Portugal and Greece were being kept irrespective of changes of government.
“I would not plead in favour of a revision, because I think we have taken the right decisions,” he said.
Schaeuble said it was too early to speculate whether a further programme would be necessary for Greece, but he noted that its debt sustainability target was for 2020 and the average IMF programme only lasted for 3 or 4 years.
“2020 is more than 3 or 4 years from now,” he said.
Reporting By Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas; editing by Andrea Evans