Outgoing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble would not like to have imposed the tough measures implemented in Greece on Germany but insists they were necessary.
In a wide-ranging interview with Alexis Papachelas on Skai TV on Tuesday night, Schaeuble, who has been elected speaker of Germany’s lower house, said that he supported the decision by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call second elections in 2015 despite the heavy toll that his policies had already taken on the Greek economy.
“He won the elections and tried for half a year to honor his promises, but did not succeed, so he called new elections and the situation has improved since then,” Schaeuble said of the Greek premier.
The 75-year-old also dismissed then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, saying his comments were “so detached from reality that I cannot really deal with them.”
Referring to the previous New Democracy government of Antonis Samaras, Schaeuble said it helped Greece make “great progress with a primary surplus and a return to financial markets,” adding, however, that Samaras asked for “a break from reforms” in 2014 due to the pressure he was ocming under, which “justified” the lenders’ decision to back away from talks on debt relief.
The conservative Christian Democrat admitted that he had earlier backed a proposal for a Greek “time-out” from the eurozone “as a currency devaluation tool.” He said he made the proposal to his then-counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, who refused the offer and said Greece would implement reforms instead.
Schaeuble denied that he personally wanted a Grexit. It ceased to be an issue, he said, when Tsipras decided to “accept something he had previously ruled out.” He added that Grexit is no longer on the table, as Greece is on track to recovery.
A lawyer and politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the veteran politician has been viewed in Greece and elsewhere as a tough champion of austerity over his insistence on exacting bailout programs during the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis.
Schaeuble, who was finance minister for eight years beginning in 2009, insisted that he and the German government were not to blame for the mistakes made by Greece.
“When you ask others for loans, you cannot insult them for granting the loans. It doesn’t make sense. Greece’s problems are Greece’s problems,” he said.