The Germans are marching on the Greeks and their intransigence over repaying their loans stretches on.
The German government has raised the prospect of an in-out referendum to decide Greece’s fate in a sign that Europe’s largest creditor has begun to make contingency plans for a Greek exit from the euro.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers inBrussels, Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble said a plebiscite on Greece’s euro membership could prove to be “helpful” for the debt-stricken country and its creditors.
“If the Greek government thinks it must hold a referendum, then let it hold a referendum,” said Mr Schaeuble.
“That might even be a helpful measure for the Greek people to decide whether it is ready to accept what is necessary, or whether it wants something different.”
His comments represent something of a volte-face from Berlin, who famously quashed plans by then prime minister George Papandreou to hold a referendum in 2011. Both Germany and France threatened to withdraw financial aid for Greece if a referendum was held at the height of its debt crisis four years ago.
The president of the European parliament, German Martin Schulz chimed in with the tacit endorsement, saying a referendum was a “possibility” but ultimately it would be up to the Greek government to decide.
Popular votes have not been the preferred course of action for European officials.
The people of the Netherlands and France voted to reject the EU Constitution in 2005, while Ireland also failed to initially ratify the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigned to stay in the euro when his Leftist Syriza party stormed to power in late January. But after three months of fractious talks which have yielded little agreement, Greece stands on the brink of defaulting to its own people at the end of the month.