France 24 — Germany’s hardline former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Wednesday said he would have dreaded imposing on his country austerity measures like the ones he helped design for Greece.
With the worst of Greece’s eight-year economic crisis now over, Schaeuble said that seeing the southern European nation shrug off bailout crutches would be his “happiest moment“.
“According to the latest (information), it is thought that Greece will manage without new measures, and that it will regain access to the markets.”
Following three successive bailouts since 2010 which Germany played a key role in crafting, Greece’s gross national output fell by a quarter owing to broad pay cuts and tax hikes imposed to rein in runaway state spending.
Schaeuble insists that the painful mix, which also saw pensions slashed, was always Greece’s choice to make.
“None of us ever wanted to harm Greece. We always fought to find the course Greece could follow towards improvement,” he said.
“It was always clear that nobody could pressure Greece. It was always clear that Greece was the one who decided,” he said.
Schaeuble also denied trying to push Athens out of the eurozone in 2015.
“Essentially all (European finance ministers) were of the view that the best thing for Greece would be to take time out (from the euro) with European backing,” he said.
Schaeuble also took a swipe at flamboyant former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has written a book about Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ failed attempt to revamp the bailout coming to power in 2015.
“To be honest, what Varoufakis says is so far removed from reality that I cannot really deal with it,” Schaeuble said.
The 75-year-old minister known for his caustic wit was nominated parliament speaker on Tuesday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly asked Schaeuble to take the post to rein in the far-right AfD in parliament.