Merkel departure would have ‘major impact’ on EU says Butikofer
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In the early 2010s Greece accumulated a huge debt, and had to be bailed out by the IMF and European Central Bank. However by 2015 there were fears this would not be enough, and the entire country could be forced out of the Eurozone.
Wolfgang Schäuble, the then German finance minister, suggested Greece could temporarily leave the currency zone.
However speaking to German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Mr Juncker said Ms Merkel wanted to keep Greece in.
He said: “Wolfgang Schäuble was very serious because he thought that the Greeks might not meet their requirements.
“Merkel never really followed this course. She had to overcome great resistance in her own parliamentary group.
“Merkel never really followed this course” (Image: GETTY)
Merkel will stand down as German Chancellor later this year (Image: GETTY)
“She shared my opinion that Greece leaving the eurozone would not have been in Europe’s general interest.
“This would have put the currency’s stability under pressure.”
Mr Juncker served as president of the European Commission between 2014 and 2019.
This period covered a number of crisis for the EU; with Brexit, the Eurozone debt problem and migration crisis.
Jean-Clade Juncker was EU Commission president from 2014 to 2019 (Image: GETTY)
Ms Merkel is due to stand down as German Chancellor later this year, having been in position since 2005.
In the interview Mr Juncker revealed he initially wanted the Greek bailout to be a European only affair, but was overruled by the German leader.
Referring to Ms Merkel he commented: “In 2010 she insisted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be part of the solution for Greece.
“At the time, as head of the Eurogroup, I had a different opinion because I thought that Europe would have to get its problems under control on its own.
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Greece was hit by a crippling debt crisis (Image: GETTY)
“But she wanted to have the international guarantee stamp of the IMF. She ultimately prevailed with this position.
“But she never took part in the Greece bashing, which was widespread in Germany at the time.”
Greece remained in the Eurozone, despite considerable political turbulence and speculation about its future.
The Greek economy was starting to make a solid recovery by early 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
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Mr Juncker insisted Ms Merkel had been pro-EU during her time as chancellor, but argued she sometimes showed hesitancy.
He said: “She was hesitant at times, but in the end, she always played the European card.
“Sometimes that took almost too long, but in the end, she found herself among those who worked on future-oriented solutions.
A 2015 Athens protest against austerity measures turned violent (Image: GETTY)
“She has always understood Europe rationally on the basis of the power of the factual, but often thought beyond the present day when making decisions.”
Ms Merkel will step down ahead of the German federal election in September.
Potential successors, as leader of her Christian Democrat Party, are already jockeying for position.