By Juergen Baetz
BERLIN -- Chancellor Angela Merkel said she understands the frustration felt by many Germans over the repeated bailout programs for debt-ridden Greece, but insisted they are in her country's self-interest because they help stabilize the eurozone as a whole.
Merkel's comments came a day after Germany's parliament voted in favor of granting Greece more lenient terms on its bailout program, clearing a necessary hurdle for disbursing a 44 billion euro ($57 billion) rescue loan payment in December.
"I obviously feel many citizens' skepticism, and partly understand it, because Greece has often disappointed its partners in the past," Merkel told Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag in an interview released Saturday. "A lot of what the Greek leadership has promised wasn't lived up to."The new Greek government, however, "finally" shows the necessary resolve "to change the country, to create modern structures," she said. A German poll published Friday showed that 46% of 1,300 people polled favored letting Greece go bankrupt, only 43% thought Greece should receive further rescue loans. A total of 69% of those surveyed for public broadcaster ZDF thought that Greece itself hasn't done enough to overcome the crisis. The ZDF poll's margin of error was 3%. Overly indebted Greece, which is about to enter its sixth consecutive year of a deep recession that has pushed unemployment up to 25%, is being kept afloat with rescue loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund in return for implementing harsh budget cuts and structural reforms. "For the large majority of Greeks this upheaval comes with great sacrifices, especially the poor in Greece go through very hard times," Merkel told the newspaper. The chancellor defended assisting Greece as being "in Germany's interest" because it helps stabilizing the 17-nation eurozone on which her nation's prosperity depends. "I will continue to do what is best for Germany and Europe and what keeps the financial consequences as little as possible and does not expose us to unacceptable risks," she said. ___ Juergen Baetz can be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz