Angela Merkel was understandably cautious in her response: “Nobody came to me and asked for any kind of dismissal,” the German chancellor said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Sunday.
The question was about Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister and fellow Christian Democratic Party (CDU) member, who in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine on Sunday said he was prepared to resign if ever forced to take a position on Greece that he didn’t agree with.
“We have a joint result, and the finance minister will now lead these negotiations just as I will,” Ms. Merkel said. She added, firmly: “We will now work together in this coalition and of course together in the [Christian Democratic] Union.”
These words were aimed as much at her fiercely independent finance minister as anyone else, and were designed to smooth over the massive gulf of opinion within her own party over Greece.
The issue of Greece, and whether or not the troubled country deserves its third bailout in five years to stave off bankruptcy, has opened up a chasm in Ms. Merkel’s governing coalition.
On the one side is Mr. Schäuble and the right wing of the CDU party. While Ms. Merkel says a “Grexit” has been off the table since euro zone leaders agreed to give Greece a third, final bailout last week, her finance minister believes it remains very much in the cards.
On the other side is Ms. Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, led by deputy chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel. Sources in Berlin say that the relationship between Mr. Schäuble and Mr. Gabriel has been irreparably damaged by the Greece crisis.