French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday it was a "mistake" to allow Greece to enter the Eurozone, comments likely to inflame tensions between EU member states just hours after a deal was reached on a bailout plan for Greece.
"Neither [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel nor I were in power when it was decided to bring Greece into the euro," Sarkozy said in a rare television interview, as quoted at French news site Rue89. "And, frankly, it was a mistake: Greece entered with false numbers."
The EU determined a four-pronged criteria for entering the Euro currency that included maximum limits on the country's inflation rate, interest rates, its deficit and debt, as well as a requirement that the country’s currency trade within a stable band of other European countries.
It was known as early as 2004 that Greece may have reported incorrect numbers, and the country may never have qualified to enter the Eurozone.
Sarkozy made his comments during an appearance on French TV in which he tried to sell a wary nation on a deal that will see European banks and governments, including France, create a $1.4 trillion emergency fund from which Greece can draw money.
Sarkozy defended the decision to create the fund, saying it was necessary to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts.
"If Greece had declared bankruptcy, it would have been a process that would have escalated," he said, meaning the crisis would have spread to other Eurozone countries.
"Greece can save itself, but it has to make efforts," Sarkozy asserted.