Merkel-Schaeuble Split on Greece Dismissed by German Offi

Angela Merkel And Wolfgang Schaeuble
Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble work together “just fine” on Greece, her spokesman said, after a newspaper report suggested a policy rift between the two.

The Bild newspaper report said Merkel kept Schaeuble in the dark about talks she held Monday with the heads of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to help end the impasse over Greece’s financing. Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, denied that account, saying “the chancellery” told Schaeuble about the meeting in advance.

“The chancellor and the finance minister are working together just fine, confidentially and trustfully,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday. “That is especially true on the topic of Greece.”

While Schaeuble has sought to keep the focus of rescue talks on demands by Greece’s creditors for economic-policy changes, Merkel has recently intensified her push to resolve the crisis as the country’s financial-aid lifeline runs out on June 30. Schaeuble’s stance partly reflects exasperation about Greek bargaining tactics among German lawmakers, who need to sign off on any changes in the aid program.

There’s concern in Merkel’s party bloc that Schaeuble would quit if she bypassed him and struck a deal that’s soft on Greece, Bild said, citing Hans Michelbach, one of her allies in parliament from the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union.

“I don’t see that there are any differences between my minister and the chancellor, neither on substance, nor on the process, the procedure,” Schaeuble’s spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters at the same briefing. “The two work together closely and trustingly. This is particularly true for Greece.”

Merkel lost her ranking as Germany’s second most-popular politician to Schaeuble this month, according to an Infratest poll for ARD television published Wednesday. With Schaeuble gone as minister, Merkel’s bloc would refuse to back more aid for Greece, Bild quoted Michelbach as saying.

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