Greece should sell islands to keep bankruptcy at bay German MPs
• Fire sale of Greek islands, Acropolis and Parthenon suggested
• Greek public reacts with outrage and boycotts German goods
Alongside austerity measures such as cuts to public sector pay and a freeze on state pensions, why not sell a few uninhabited islands or ancient artefacts, asked Josef Schlarmann, a senior member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, and Frank Schaeffler, a finance policy expert in the Free Democrats.
The Acropolis and the Parthenon could also fall under the hammer, along with temptingly idyllic Aegean islands still under state ownership, in a rush to keep bankruptcy at bay.
"Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors," Schlarmann told Bild newspaper. "Greece owns buildings, companies and uninhabited islands, which could all be used for debt redemption."
Only yesterday the ruling socialist government in Greece published its third attempt to reduce the country's debts and please EU governments, which have pledged to support the beleaguered economy if austerity measures are enacted.
Strikes and street protests have already threatened to bring many industries and public services to a standstill if the cuts go ahead.
But Germans remain unmoved by the troubles facing Greece. Opinion polls show Germans are overwhelmingly against a Berlin-funded bailout. Greece's deficit was 12.7% of national income in 2009, well ahead of the EU's 3% limit.
Merkel will meet the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, in Berlin on Friday.
"The chancellor cannot promise Greece any help," Schaeffler told Bild in a story under the headline: "Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks! And sell the Acropolis too!"
"The Greek government has to take radical steps to sell its property – for example its uninhabited islands," Schaeffler told Germany's best-selling daily newspaper.
Greece's deputy foreign minister, Dimitris Droutsas, was asked about the idea in an interview with ARD TV. "I've also heard the suggestion we should sell the Acropolis," Droutsas said. "Suggestions like this are not appropriate at this time."
Germans have had an allergic reaction to reports their country may be part of a bailout for Greece. Many fear it could lead to similar calls for cash from Spain and Portugal, which have also been badly hit following the financial crash.
Europe's biggest economy itself is only just creeping out of its worst postwar recession. Last week figures revealed the German economy had stalled, while separately, politicians wrestled with a bigger bailout for its second-largest bank, Commerzbank, which purchased billions of pounds worth of exotic financial instruments linked to US sub-prime mortgages.
Greeks reacted with outrage to the proposals today, with many taking to the airwaves to complain about all things Teutonic.
"I don't mind so much about the austerity measures, it's the Germans," a former government employee told a radio host. "The suggestion that we now sell off our national assets has got me so angry I am boycotting all their products."
The country's consumer federation, INKA, summoned Greeks to boycott German products, including supermarket chains and car dealerships, following a spasm of national fury at the way the country was being portrayed by the German media.
"The pressure the Germans are putting us under is outrageous," said Sarandi Pitsas, a pensioner who took to the streets to protest against the austerity measures. "When we were carving beautiful statues like the Venus de Milos," he said, referring to the cover of a German magazine which showed the statue gesturing obscenely under the headline 'Greek cheats', "they were living in caves and growling like dogs."
Five days after it was launched, the 100,000-strong consumer group says the boycott of products and shops is going splendidly. "The response has been immense," Haralambous Velidarakis, a board member of INKA, said. "This is not against the German people but in protest against sustained attacks from the German government, which will lead to the impoverishment of Greeks."
Greece's satirical weekly To Pontiki (the mouse) put it another way today. Its front-page cover asked: "Does Greece belong to the Greeks?"