Schaeuble Says Greece Needed 10-Year Eurozone Break

Germany's former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Former German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the driving force behind brutal austerity measures imposed on Greece by international creditors – including his country’s banks – said the country should have taken a 10-year timeout from the Eurozone.

Three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($369.05 billion) from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and the European Stability Mechanism ended on Aug. 20, 2018 but Greece still hasn’t been able to make a full market return.

Before he stepped down, Schaeuble kept pushing austerity on Greece, forcing Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras to back away from anti-austerity vows to take a third rescue package in 2015, for 86 billion euros ($97.36 billion.)

At that time, Tsipras tried to bluff the lenders that he would take Greece out of the Eurozone but backed off when Germany actually was set to agree, leaving him nowhere to go but seek and accept aid and more brutal measures he swore he would reject.

In an interview in the Financial Times, Schaeuble said he advised German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he had floated the idea of an interim Eurozone exit with Giorgos Papaconstantinou, Greece’s finance minister from 2009-11, and again during tense talks with Tsipras’ administration in 2015.

Schaeuble said that he came close to resigning when Merkel rejected his recommendation to cut Greece loose. “On the morning the decision was made, (Merkel) said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close (to my stepping down,),” the paper reported.

“I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go,” he says of his relationship with the Chancellor. “We didn’t always agree – but I was always loyal.”