Schaeuble gives his blessing for a Eurozone referendum in Greece, saying it could finally resolve the drawn-out crisis.
“If the Greek government thinks it should have a referendum, then it should organize a referendum,” Schaeuble told reporters in Brussels.
“Maybe this would be the right measure to let the Greek people decide if it is ready to accept what is necessary — or if they want to have the other thing.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz however said that the issue of a Greek referendum was «a question on which the Greeks have to discuss on their own.”
Led by Germany, Greece’s creditors want rigorous reforms from Athens but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s radical government has so far refused to deliver.
Tsipras’ government, led by the radical Syriza party, has previously warned of the possibility of a referendum to seek approval for its tough stance.
Schaeuble ruled out any deal at Monday’s Eurogroup — the meeting of the 19 eurozone finance ministers.
“Unfortunately there is not sufficient progress to reach a decision today, whatever it is,” he said.
“We want to help Greece but Greece has to do its part.”
Though progress was said to be made at the Eurogroup meeting, nothing official was announced, and time and money is running out for all parties involved.
“We welcomed the progress that has been achieved so far,” said the ministers in a joint statement after the meeting in Brussels. “We note that the reorganization and streamlining of working procedures has made an acceleration possible, and has contributed to a more substantial discussion,” they added in reference to recent changes in Greece’s negotiation team and its style.
“At the same time, we acknowledged that more time and effort are needed to bridge the gaps on the remaining open issues,” the statement added, calling for an acceleration in the Brussels Group negotiations.
The euro-area finance ministers also made it clear that more loans would be disbursed to Greece only if there is a “staff-level agreement” on the conclusion of the program review. Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem indicated in comments afterward that Greece’s lenders might agree to break up the 7.2 billion euros in bailout funding into smaller tranches based on the gradual implementation of whatever is included in any final agreement.
“There are time constraints and liquidity constraints and hopefully we will reach an agreement before time runs out and before money runs out,” said Dijsselbloem.
Speaking in a separate news conference, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he felt there has been “considerable convergence” between Athens and its creditors and that they would try to wrap up an agreement in the next couple of weeks, before the government’s liquidity problems become “binding.”
The Greek minister said there had been “substantive progress” in talks on issues such as settling nonperforming loans (NPLs), reforming value-added tax (VAT) and bolstering the independence of Greece’s tax authority. However, he suggested that there were still differences over pension and labor reforms. “Just cutting pensions is not a reform,” he said.
Varoufakis confirmed that Greece would today meet a repayment of around 750 million euros to the International Monetary Fund.
He also insisted that his relations with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble are excellent. “Our meetings are always friendly, particularly interesting and constructive,” said the former economics professor. “Today we had our friendliest meeting yet,” he added.