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'An offer they can't refuse': German minister wants Greece to leave eurozone

The interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich tells Der Spiegel that instead of forcing Greece out, it should get offers it “can’t refuse”.

Hans-Peter Friedrich (left) has become the most senior member of Angela Merkel's cabinet to suggest that Greece should leave the eurozone.
Hans-Peter Friedrich (left) has become the most senior member of Angela Merkel's cabinet to suggest that Greece should leave the eurozone.
Image: Markus Schreiber/AP

A SENIOR MEMBER of Angela Merkel’s cabinet has controversially suggested that Greece should be encouraged to leave the eurozone – potentially reigniting fears over the future stability of the currency bloc.

Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told news magazine Der Spiegel that while Greece should not be kicked out of the euro, other countries should be prepared to create conditions so that it leaves of its own accord.

“I’m not talking about kicking out Greece, but to create incentives for an exit that it can’t refuse,” Friedrich said.

His comments mark the first time that a cabinet minister has openly questioned whether Greece should remain in the bloc, and come within a week of eurozone finance ministers agreeing to issue €130 billion in new bailout loans to the struggling Greek government.

The same Spiegel article quoted the treasurer of Angela Merkel’s CDU party, Norbert Barthle, who said he doubted that the terms of the new bailout could achieve its objective of helping Greece to reduce its national debt to 120 per cent of its GDP by 2020.

The comments, published yesterday, came a day before the Bundestag votes on whether to release new cash to assist Greece.

The vote is expected to pass easily – with opposition parties having signalled support at committee level last week – but an opinion poll published in yesterday’s Bild am Sonntag showed that 62 per cent of Germans opposed any further financial aid to Greece. That poll prompted Bild, the country’s biggest-selling daily, to campaign against any more help.

Angela Merkel has herself taken some heat for the comments, with the Wall Street Journal remarking that the Chancellor could find it difficult to maintain parliamentary support for continued Greek aid if Lucas Papademos’s government does not follow up on its austerity measures.

It notes that any German politician who previously argued the case for a Greek exit from the eurozone was labelled “an extremist”, but that an increasing number of figures in Berlin believe an exit would allow the rest of the eurozone to emerge more quickly from the crisis.

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Gavan Reilly

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