Schaeuble’s Grexit comment provokes reaction in Athens

5 February 2016
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Comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Wednesday, which appeared to suggest Greece would have to leave the euro to recover, were taken out of context, Berlin indicated Thursday.

Schaeuble was reported to have said during a political gathering in Hamburg that it is hard for a country to solve its economic problems without being able to devalue its currency. He is said to have added that had Greece left the euro it would have felt some sharp pain but would have avoided having to implement repeated painful measures.

His alleged comments sparked an immediate reaction in Athens, where a government official labeled them “unproductive.” New Democracy spokesperson Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Greece had to avoid giving encouragement to “some in Europe who would like to bring back negative scenarios for the country.”

Former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, currently a PASOK MP, also responded to a reference Schaeuble made to a conversation the pair had in 2011, when the German minister laid out a plan for Greece to leave the eurozone.

According to Venizelos, Schaeuble proposed converting from euros to a new currency any deposits above 3,000 euros and imposing strict capital controls. Schaeuble is also said to have proposed humanitarian aid in the form of food, fuel and medicines.

“Obviously I rejected the proposal straight away as it would have led to the reintroduction of a drachma that would be beset by repeated devaluations,” said Venizelos.

Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, a Germany Finance Ministry official insisted that Schaeuble was not advocating a Grexit now but was describing past events.

“We are currently focusing on the implementation of the existing program,” added the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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