Greek euro exit 'not end of the world': German minister

14th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A German minister suggested on Wednesday the eurozone could do without Greece, even as Chancellor Angela Merkel struggled to unite her government in supporting Athens.

In a marked departure from Germany's official line, Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer told the Die Zeit weekly it would "not be the end of the world" if debt-mired Greece were forced to exit the eurozone.

Ramsauer is a leading figure in the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats. Merkel has repeatedly warned of a "domino effect" if Greece were to leave the 17-nation zone.

She was forced on Tuesday to slap down her own vice chancellor, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, after comments he made about a possible Greek bankruptcy sent the markets into turmoil.

Asked about Roesler and Ramsauer's remarks, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert again called on the members of her fractious coalition Wednesday to toe the line.

"We're living in serious times with major political challenges and in such times, the chancellor has a clear conviction -- what the government says, its communication policy, must be part of the solution to the problem and that is the chancellor's approach," he said.

The cacophony came as Merkel, whom Forbes magazine last month named the world's most powerful woman, faced a possible backbench revolt within her own coalition over a key parliamentary vote on extending aid for Greece.

Eurosceptics in the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), which Roesler heads, said they were trying to win enough signatures to force a referendum among party members over whether to vote against extending the EU's rescue fund.

FDP deputy Frank Schaeffler told AFP he had collected 1,200 signatures, around one-third of those necessary to force a referendum.

If a majority of FDP members then voted against the bill to boost the EU rescue fund, it would become party policy, meaning Merkel would likely have to rely on the opposition to pass the bill, undermining her politically.

The bill, due to come before the Bundestag lower house on September 29, aims to extend the volume and scope of the EU rescue fund (EFSF) as agreed by European leaders on July 21.

© 2011 AFP

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