Greece deal was designed not to be accepted

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had a plan to push Greece out of the euro zone. Chancellor Merkel wasn’t sure what to do about it. The result is widespread resentment of Germany and a damaged Franco-German relationship.

There are days when Wolfgang Schäuble’s staff would prefer to be somewhere else. In Timbuktu perhaps, or up on the Acropolis. In any case, far, far away.

Last Thursday, the German finance minister rolled into an elevator in the Reichstag in Berlin. He was irritated, for he soon had to appear before the Affairs of the European Union Committee to defend a bailout plan for Greece that he didn’t even believe in. “Grottenfalsch,” as he would say — “dreadfully wrong.”

In his wheelchair, Schäuble leaned to one side and rubbed his face. “What about the appointment at 5:30 p.m.?” he wanted to know. “It’s in the schedule,” a staffer responded, immediately wishing he was somewhere else. “In the schedule?” When Schäuble gets irritated, he doesn’t raise his voice. Instead he stretches out his vowels like a rubber band. “Scheeeeeeedule,” he said, and then issued an order: “Call the chancellor’s secretary and ask where it is.”

He then inhaled, flashing a pugnacious smile and turned his wheelchair around. He then prepared for battle of a kind he had never before fought in his long political career — a battle against the Greek government, against American economists, against large swathes of European public opinion and also, to some extent, against the chancellor herself.

Had it been up to Schäuble, Germany would have shown the Greeks the euro-zone door long ago. His problem, however, is that the chancellor doesn’t share this sentiment. Merkel rejects his insistence because she doesn’t want to go down in history as the government leader responsible for the disintegration of Europe.

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