Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose 2013 book on wealth inequality became an international bestseller, said he sees a risk of politicians in the European Union forcing Greece out of the euro area.
“The attitude of a number of people in Brussels and Berlin looks like: push Greece out,” Piketty said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Paris.
Greece, Europe’s most-indebted state, is negotiating with euro-area countries and the International Monetary Fund on the terms of its 240 billion-euro ($259 billion) rescue. The standoff, which has left Greece dependent upon European Central Bank loans, risks leading to a default within weeks and its potential exit from the euro area.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said that she wants Greece to stay in the euro and along with French President Francois Hollande last week expressed concern that time is running short.
“There’s no time to lose,” Merkel said at a news conference with Hollande after they met in Berlin March 31. Hollande said too much time has been lost already, adding that he would like an agreement and “the sooner, the better.”
Piketty said that lack of institutional coherence has damaged the euro area.
Germany and France aren’t just mistreating Greece, “they’re mistreating themselves,” Piketty said. “We need more political integration, more democratic institutions. You can’t just do it with summits of finance ministers.”
Separately, the 43-year-old Piketty said that the main cost of a British exit from the EU would be to Britain and not its continental partners. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on the U.K.’s membership in the European Union if he’s re-elected next month.
“Many people on the continent are a little bit tired with Britain’s attitude and will say ‘if they leave, it’s too bad for them,’” Piketty said. “The main cost will be incurred by Britain, not by the continent.”