The German finance ministry dismissed speculation in German media on Saturday that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was considering resignation over differences of opinion with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the issue of Greece.
Germany’s Der Spiegel printed an interview with 72-year-old Schaeuble in which he said he could always ask the president to relieve him of his duties in response to a question about whether problems could arise if the chancellor and finance minister had divergent opinions on financial support for Greece.
Some German media published reports based on the interview suggesting that Schaeuble was thinking about stepping down. Der Spiegel also sent round an extract of the interview with the headline: “Schaeuble brings resignation into play”.
A spokesman for the finance ministry referred to Schaeuble’s clear answer in the interview to the question of whether he was considering asking the president to free him of his obligations, which was: “No. Where did you get that idea?”
The spokesman said he would not comment further on the report.
In the interview, which was widely reported by other German media, Schaeuble said: “Politicians’ responsibilities come from the offices they hold. Nobody can coerce them. If anyone were to try, I could go to the president and ask to be relieved of my duties.”
He said differing opinions went hand-in-hand with democracy and referred to a Christian Democrat (CDU) European election campaign poster from 1999 which featured an image of him and Merkel above the slogan “Not always of the same opinion, but on the same path” and he added that was still true of the pair.
“That’s how it has remained until today, even if our roles have changed. You don’t need to worry about it,” he said.
Peter Tauber, the general secretary of the CDU, told German newspaper Tagesspiegel’s Sunday edition that Merkel and Schaeuble were “perhaps not always of the same opinion but they always walk down the same path”, according to an advance copy.
Schaeuble has questioned whether Athens would ever get a third bailout and has said Greece might be better off taking a time-out from the euro zone to sort out its economic problems – a suggestion that Merkel said would not work.
On Friday German lawmakers gave Berlin the green light to open negotiations on a third bailout for Greece.