(Reuters) A spokesman for Germany’s finance minister Friday condemned as “vile” a Greek newspaper caricature that showed minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi-era army uniform and alluded to the Holocaust.
“There is the principle of freedom of expression,” spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters.
“I will also make use of this freedom of expression, and on a very personal basis I say: this caricature is vile and the artist of this caricature should be ashamed.”
The cartoon depicts Germany’s finance minister in a Wehrmacht uniform saying “we insist on the soap from your fat … we are prepared to discuss the fertilizer from your ashes.”
The headline reads, “The negotiation has begun,” referring to the talks the new Syriza-led government in Athens is holding with its eurozone partners on debt relief and economic reforms.
The Greek newspaper, which has a daily circulation of only about 1,800, published another cartoon of Schaeuble in its Friday edition, also wearing a German army uniform.
Germany has been the strongest opponent of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s plans for an overhaul of its huge loans program. Many in Athens blame Berlin for imposing austerity since the country’s first bailout in 2010.
Greece began tough negotiations with its creditors on Friday as hopes grew of a deal to replace its detested bailout after Tsipras pushed his case at a European summit.
Officials from Athens held technical discussions with the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank in Brussels ahead of a last-ditch meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.
European and Asian stock markets rose Friday on the more positive mood after hard-left leader Tsipras met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of Europe’s biggest economy, and other counterparts in Brussels.
Tsipras vowed after his election in January to replace the current €240 billion ($270 billion) EU-IMF bailout with its heavy austerity measures, and to ditch the so-called troika of its creditors.
But with the Greek rescue program due to expire at the end of the month, time is running out to prevent a possible Greek default and a potentially catastrophic exit from the 19-country eurozone.
A senior EU official closely involved in Friday’s technical-level talks said that a new bailout programme was an option, despite the insistence of Greece’s eurozone counterparts until now that Athens stick to the current rescue package.
“It is not crucial to extend. One could also agree that one will commence discussions on a new programme,” the EU official said on condition of anonymity. “I would not exclude it.”