Oh. And Prime Minister Tsipras spoke ‘nonsense’! And ’15 Eurozone ministers wanted Greece out of the euro’. However they acted independently and not because Germany or – even worse – Schaeuble told them to do so. In an interview with French daily Liberation, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble drew a very nice picture of himself during the negotiations between Greece and the Eurozone, and a bad picture about Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Stuck in his own prejudice, self-opinionated Schaeuble tried to persuade the world that is apart from rational also soft, and kind, a cute puppy with golden heart and flexible maths longing for hugs.
Enjoy the interview!- in fact it is a a rather successful automatic translation from French to English with very little editing intervention, partly because I got quite bored of Schaeuble’s perfectly idyllic German world.
Sometimes the text may not make much sense because the original is in Q&A form.
Like a contemporary Louis XIV: La eurozone c’ est moi!
Wolfgang Schäuble: “There is no German diktat”
The great German financier is a rare man. Wolfgang Schäuble is expressed, in fact, sparingly, in the international press. It is in the context of the documentary Greece, the day after (1), narrating the six months of crazy negotiations between Greece and the euro area, as Libération could question him at length, exclusively.
How did you perceive the victory of Syriza in Greece, during the elections of January 25?
This does not surprise me, both because the polls were widely reported and this victory because Antonis Samaras [the outgoing head of government, note] had been very hesitant in its policy over the previous six months the election.
At the time, did you know Alexis Tsipras?
Yes I do. He came here in Berlin, and we discussed at length. There he told me that he considered our policy as a mistake, but he wanted of course that Greece remains in the euro what. I then replied: “If you promise your constituents that you will stay in the euro without applying the conditions of aid programs, so you’ll make a promise you can not keep.” On the evening of January 25, the only question I asked myself was how he would go about out of the trap he had stretched himself during the campaign.
You, a Christian Democrat, had no ideological prejudices against Syriza, a radical left party that embodies everything you fight?
Absolutely not. In Germany, I fight the SPD Social Democrats during election campaigns, because I am a Christian democrat. As in France I support my friends Republicans. But once the people decided, is that it has elected representing his country. That is why it is irrelevant that the French Minister of Finance be socialist or conservative: As French is my closest and most important partner, and usually also, my friend.
During the campaign, SYRIZA played the nationalist fiber and personally attacked you, making you the torturer of the Greek people. You even have been caricatured as a Nazi. Does it hurt you?
It does not hit me personally, but it made me very skeptical of these policies trying to win votes with such discourse. Alexis Tsipras went up to say before and after the election, that if Germany was paying reparations to Greece for the crimes and destruction committed by the Nazis during the Second World War, this would absorb the overall public debt. Someone who says such nonsense to his people does not fulfill its duty, which is to tell the truth. This nationalism, this irresponsible speech could only turn against those who used them. For if I were Greek, I would say to myself: “Since there is someone who needs us so much money, so why should I save money?” But I’m not the arbiter of politics Greece.
Why Greece after two aid plans, she was still out of the crisis unlike Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus?
The question of whether the austerity policy is the cause of the Greek problem is an issue we are discussing regularly. But do not forget that in 2009, that is to say, before the euro crisis, the public deficit in Greece was 15% of GDP and the trade balance – the excess of its imports relative to its exports – 15% also. An economy with such figures obviously lives above its means. It can do this for a while, but there comes a time when we no longer find anyone to make you credit. That was the situation in Greece. When markets have stopped lending the country money, in early 2010, we said: “The euro area and the International Monetary Fund will help you save time by ensuring your financing at very favorable conditions, but, course, provided that you use this time to clean up your economy so that one day you can make back your expenses yourself. “It’s called economy competitiveness.
When one has lived beyond its means, such reforms always go hand in hand with painful restrictions. And if one is not able to devalue its currency – which compensates for differences or productivity deficits – and that, on the contrary, benefited from low interest rates, as is the case in Eurozone reform requirements are very high. That is why they are not popular and that is why we need responsible leaders to explain to citizens that these reforms are necessary to live better. Finally, we must add, in the case of Greece, an additional difficulty: the state is weak and dysfunctional, as the Greeks have admitted. This set of reasons why this country is more difficult to adapt than other states that have benefited from the program. It also explains why Greek voters got finally tired of political support that route, which has allowed Alexis Tsipras to win elections by promising to break with austerity.
Can Syriza reform the Greek state? Was there a negotiation strategy?
Alexis Tsipras knew he could not keep his promise to stay in the euro without accepting a program. So it took him quite some time. He thought he would enjoy much support in and out of Europe and that no one would go to an exit of Greece from the eurozone. So he went to the limits. But what was probably the most important was that it took a while for Greek citizens to admit that the promise that was made to them to win elections Tsipras was not tenable.
When Tsipras ad convene a referendum on July 5, while the euro area is close to concluding a compromise on the Greek program, what is your reaction?
We were all very confused. Alexis Tsipras Especially did just after a European Council of Heads of State and Government and has not warned his colleagues. It’s back home they learned that Alexis Tsipras was to do the opposite of what he had told them. Everyone thought it was, say, confusing. Nobody understood what his strategy or even if he had really planned this referendum. The suite was not clear: while the Greek people followed his instructions to vote by rejecting 60% of the assistance program, he decided to apply anyway. And the Greeks have accepted this change. That I do not understand it, but I’m not Greek.
At the Eurogroup (the monthly meeting of finance ministers of the euro area) July 11, you have called for a “Grexit”. What for ?
Je me suis toujours demandé, comme beaucoup d’économistes si pour la Grèce, avec sa situation économique et son administration – comme le dit Jean-Claude Juncker, les Grecs forment un grand peuple, mais la Grèce n’est pas un Etat -, ce ne serait pas préférable de procéder au rétablissement nécessaire de l’économie par le biais d’une dévaluation.
I’ve always wondered, like many economists did with the economic situation in Greece and its administration – like Jean-Claude Juncker said, Greeks are a great people, but Greece is not a state – whether it would not be better to proceed with the necessary recovery of the economy through a devaluation. And that is why I explained that it might be in the interest of Greece itself to abandons the euro for a while, to recover economically and improve its competitiveness, before returning back. But I have never advocated that we eject Greece. I simply said that if Greece itself was of the opinion that it would be best for it – and they were actually likely to say in Greece – so we should help and support.
We presented the compromise of 13 July as a “diktat” German?
There were no German diktat. The eighteen finance ministers of the euro area, if you do not count the Greek Minister, all agreed to demand that Greece meets the conditions of the aid program. It was indisputable. However, Greece did not fulfill: what is had promised at time, it did not. And about whether, for Greece, the best solution would be to leave the euro for some time – a timeout – fifteen finance ministers shared this opinion. Only French, Italian and Cypriot ministers were not on that line. We can not speak German diktat. And that’s the truth. All the rest is propaganda at worst or misunderstanding at best.
Are you ready to assume the role of villain that makes you play within the eurozone?
I do not think we consider me as the villain throughout Europe. Many people, including France, approves my approach. But even if that were the case, it would not affect me, because I know who I am: I am a passionate European. My own party, we rather suspect me of being too European and not sufficiently defend German interests. My aim is for Europe to become an ensemble that manages to solve the problems that neither France nor Luxembourg, nor Germany can not solve alone. Take for example the issue of refugees, the stabilization of the Middle East, the climate, the global interpenetration of financial markets: isolated, we can do nothing, together we can do a lot. But for this, we must of course ensure that citizens have confidence in Europe and its ability to act. That is why we must have strong institutions, but also that we are able to respect a minimum agreements that we find. You are never forced to do it 100% – I am not in favor of an application to 100% of the texts – but we need to stop to enter into compromise is unknown in the minute. This behavior does not create trust among citizens. Finally, we must ensure that Europe is economically strong: if we accept that Greece becomes an economic model for the Union, then it will not be relevant and will therefore not take responsibility.
Original in French: Liberation.
Historic quotation by French King Louis XIV L’etat, C’est Moi = “The state, it is me“, meaning the king alone rules.
There is an interesting documentary on arte+7 called “Griechen, Grexit, Gläubiger” (German) or “Grèce, le jour d’après” (French) with Moscovici and Juncker talking, too.
Och ktg I am so tired of the lies and ‘alternate reality’ scenario put on by this paralyzed, agenda-driven man. No mention of German & French banks. No mention of German corporate uber-corruption. Pretending that France is his best friend when he & his flunkies are aiming to bring down France. The pretense that countries are households and macroeconomics n’existe pas. No mention of the horrendous and rising inequality inside Germany and the tens of millions scratching by on mini-jobs. No mention of the most disastrously under-leveraged (and tottering) bank in the world, Deutsche Bank, with its 60 trillion in CDS exposure, many times bigger than the German economy.
Finally, when he says Greece is not a state, is this the writing on the wall?
Schauble will go down in history as the successor to Hitler — again supported by the stupid German people — who has a vision of power. We do not know which political and business interests are backing him; nobody other an idiotic Germans voted for him; yet he is running the eurozone.
There is a lot to criticise greek politicians about, but none gets close to the corruption and abuse of power of the criminal in a wheelchair.
Why Greece after two aid plans, she was still out of the crisis unlike Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus?
Even prejudice must be served in moderate doses. I burned out on the word “aid”. “Economic warfare” sounds so much better…
While performing the great divide and conquer man, announcing the end of the crisis is Portugal, is Schauble aware that now a post-electoral coalition between socialists (32%), left blockists (10%) and communists (8%) is fighting to remove from power the right coalition (36%)?
Climate? Just close your airports and your car-factories, ban all cars from the streets and from the planet, ships run better with wind-turbines but you stopped building them corrupted by oil-money