The risks of Greece leaving the euro zone are higher now then at the onset of the euro zone debt crisis, the former president of the European Commission told CNBC on Wednesday—shortly before Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece's credit rating to CCC-plus.
Jose Manuel Barroso led the European Commission (the European Union's executive body) from 2004 to 2014, including during the worst years of the region's debt crisis.
On Wednesday, the former leader said there was a risk that Greece would be unable to come to an agreement with it euro zone creditors in ongoing discussions about what reforms it should instigate as a precursor to the release of further aid. This could increasing the risk of the country defaulting on its debt obligations or having to leave the euro zone.
"I think there is a risk in the end that there is no positive outcome. I think that risk is higher today them some years before, when I was in the Commission. I continue to think that it would be a bad precedent, it would be a taboo that is broken," Barroso told CNBC, speaking from a conference on tourism in Madrid.
"The Greek government lacks experience but they should understand that they have to comply with the rules of the euro zone. At the same time, the other 18 governments of the euro zone should show solidarity because the Greek people have gone through an extremely difficult situation—some flexibility should be allowed," Barroso told CNBC.
Barroso's comments follow remarks from an opposition member of the Greek parliament, who told CNBC Wednesday that debt default in Greece would be "completely catastrophic" and a scenario that Athens should avoid at all costs.