Former German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, widely regarded as the architect of austerity in eurozone crisis countries, said in an interview in the Financial Times on Friday that Greece should have taken a 10-year timeout from the bloc.
The economist, who served as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s finance chief from 2009 to 2017, through the peak of the Greek debt crisis, admitted that he had floated the idea of a temporary Grexit with Giorgos Papaconstantinou, Greece’s finance minister from 2009 to 2011, and pushed for it again during the thorny negotiations of 2015, after leftist SYRIZA came into power on a promise to challenge the country’s creditors.
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],” he told the Financial Times.
“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.”