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Greece should sell islands to cut debt - Merkel allies

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Berlin

The Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. File photo
Only 227 of Greece's 6,000 islands are inhabited

Greece should consider selling some of its uninhabited islands to cut its debt, according to political allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Josef Schlarmann and Frank Schaeffler told Germany's Bild daily that the Greek state should sell stakes in all its assets to raise more cash.

Greek PM George Papandreou is due to meet Mrs Merkel in Berlin later this week for talks about the crisis.

Mr Papandreou has already announced a strict austerity programme.

'Affordable' islands

"Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks - and the Acropolis too!" says the headline in the Bild newspaper.

map

It sounds like the sort of daydream induced by too much ouzo, but the idea comes from two senior politicians in Europe's biggest economy.

Mr Schlarmann is a senior member of Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats and Mr Schaeffler is an MP for the Free Democrats - the junior partner in the centre-right coalition.

Both confirmed to the BBC that they wanted to start a debate about what Greece could do to help itself and bolster the battered euro.

Those who face insolvency, Mr Schlarmann said, must sell everything they have to pay their creditors.

He advised Mrs Merkel not to promise any financial aid when she met Mr Papandreou in Berlin.

According to a poll published on Thursday, 84% of Germans think that the EU should not help Greece out of its debt crisis.

It is true that dotted in the blue waters of the Aegean are some of the country's most valuable assets - about 6,000 islands, of which only 227 are inhabited. Many of them are privately owned by the world's super-rich.

According to a specialised real-estate website, Greek islands evoke images of sunglass-sporting shipping magnates sipping champagne on enormous yachts, but cost as little as $2m (£1.3m).

Relatively affordable, the website says - unless, of course, you're a Greek.

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