Schaeuble: Worst of euro crisis 'behind us'

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said he believes the eurozone is already past the peak of its three-year-long debt crisis, citing positive developments in Greece and France.

In an interview with Bild to appear in Friday's edition, Schaeuble said: "I think the worst is behind us."

"The government in Athens knows that it must not overburden other eurozone member states. Therefore it is pressing ahead with reforms," he said in the interview.

He also expressed optimism about the pace of reform in fellow eurozone powerhouse France, saying Paris "was well aware that every country must constantly carry out reforms in order to stay competitive."

Schaeuble appeared more optimistic on what lies ahead for the eurozone than Chancellor Angela Merkel who has steadfastly refused to sound the all-clear.

Speaking after the EU picked up its Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, Merkel said she could not "completely" declare the crisis over, describing herself as a "prudent optimist."

Turning to the German economy, the bloc's largest, Schaeuble said he was counting on "decent" growth next year, driven by trade with the United States and Asia.

"The situation is better than expected because of stronger trade with the US and Asia, among other things. The German economy will therefore grow at a decent rate in 2013," Schaeuble said.

Schaeuble said the German government wanted to present a plan for a balanced budget before the election, but he "comprehensively" denied a report in Der Spiegel that any new government led by Merkel would seek to impose austerity measures thereafter.

The magazine said the finance ministry had drafted plans for an extensive post-election programme including cuts in social spending and a rise in sales tax.

The finance ministry, which also denied the Spiegel report, has said its officials are working on getting a balanced budget in 2013.

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