Schäuble says Europe is 'ready' for Greek euro exit

Mon, May 14, 2012, 01:00

GERMAN FINANCE minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said he hopes Greece remains in the euro zone but that Europe is “ready for every eventuality”.

Mr Schäuble indicated he would not refuse if asked by his colleagues to head the euro group of finance ministers, succeeding Luxembourg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

“I’ve not heard my colleagues saying, ‘my God, anyone but Schäuble’,” said the 69-year-old minister. “So that’s not bad. But now we’ll wait for the rest.”

Mr Schäuble said his childhood in post-war Germany, on the German-French border, had taught him to view problems from a broader European, rather than a narrow national, perspective.

After overcoming health problems in recent years, the wheelchair-bound Mr Schäuble said he was ready for the extra day’s work a week involved in co-ordinating the work of the euro group.

In yesterday’s Welt am Sonntag interview, Mr Schäuble anticipated any possible concerns over a German politician heading the crucial finance minister grouping by underlining his credentials as an old-school German politician.

“Questions have to be asked in a European context: what is the best for Europe? As a rule that is the best for Germany, too.”

The finance minister said there was no “comfortable” alternative to Greece following the agreed austerity path, despite continued uncertainty over a new government.

“We are already at the limits of what is credible for financial markets,” he said. “We cannot force any country to stay in the euro . . . but it would be odd if [we] weren’t prepared for all eventualities which wouldn’t be easy for Europe.”

His remarks mark the second time in days that Mr Schäuble has publicly floated the idea of Greece exiting the currency bloc. Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann said yesterday that he did not wish for Greece to leave, adding “in theory, a lot is imaginable”. This morning’s Der Spiegel, headlined with “Acropolis Adieu: why Greece now has to leave the euro zone”.

Mr Schäuble said he remained optimistic about the future of the currency bloc, suggesting that all member states would adopt the euro within the next decade.