German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wanted Greece out of the euro and was willing to pay the country to leave, according to Mediapart, a French investigative website.
The publication has a long interview with an anonymous source who, it claims, was a member of the Greek negotiating team that was trying to cut a deal with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union over bailing out the Greek economy.
It’s not clear who the source is, but the speaker appears to be sympathetic to flambouyant former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who left his post suddenly after winning a “No” vote in a national referendum on whether Greece should accept the EU’s terms.
Schäuble has wanted Greece out of the euro since 2011, this source claims. The report, which we noticed on the FT’s live blog, is interesting because the assumption was until now — and indeed the reality has been — that Germany intended to go to lengths to keep Greece in the euro without forgiving its debts, even though the Greek economy is probably too small to sustain them. Greece owes Germany €87 billion (£62 billion / $US96 million) out of a total debt of around €311 billion euros.
But there was a point when Schäuble was willing to let Greece go back to the drachma, and maybe take some German money with it. Mediapart’s source says Schäuble told Varoufakis’ team:
You cannot argue too much with Schäuble. It would be dangerous, because you won’t get finance, German banks will want their money back, and so on. So it’s a institution where you cannot make your voice heard, so what’s the point in encountering [them]? There was no-one else but Varoufakis talking straight. Schäuble has said “How much money do you want [in order] to leave the euro?” He doesn’t want Greece in the euro at all. He was the first to raise the issue of a Grexit back in 2011.