Martin Schulz has said beleaguered Greece should stay in the EU
Mr Schulz, who is campaigning to become the new German chancellor, believes letting Greece leave is “absolutely negligent”.
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) – the other half of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government – has defied the German leader by supporting Greece remaining in the eurozone.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Schulz, Andrea Nahles, an SPD member and Germany’s labour minister, said a ‘Grexit’ is “not just historically but also, in the current political context, absolutely negligent”.
Grexit is not just historically but also, in the current political context, absolutely negligent
Andrea Nahles for Martin Schulz
She added: “All Social Democratic ministers in the German government and Martin Schulz agree that this is not an option.”
Mr Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, is in stark opposition to Angela Merkel’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who said the EU will not hand over any more money to Greece to keep it in the eurozone and the only way for its loans to be written off is to leave.
He said: “Greece would have to exit the currency area.
“Pressure on Greece to undertake reforms must be maintained so that it becomes competitive, otherwise they can’t remain.”
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) £73.4billion Greek bailout programme is at risk of failing after the Government refused to implement additional austerity measures and widen its economic reforms due to public backlash following years of cutbacks.
Greece also has a £6bn payment to the European Central Bank (ECB) in July which it is unlikely to meet.
Angela Merkel's finance minister has said Greece should leave the EU to solve the crisis
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Protests have become commonplace in Greece as citizens react to forced austerity measures
Germany is Greece's biggest eurozone creditor and wants to claw back all the money it lent to stop Athens collapsing into bankruptcy amid the financial crisis.
But fellow creditor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week admitted Athens' debt load is unsustainable.
Wolfgang Schäuble was very direct in saying the EU will not hand over any more money to Greece
The Greece issue has brought the entire euro currency into question, with the majority of Greek citizens saying they regret joining the euro according to a new poll by Alco last month.
A total of 53 per cent of Greeks believed joining the currency was “wrong” for the country and have called for a return to the drachma.
Protest in Greece turns violent Wed, November 16, 2016
Protests in Greece turn violent following a protest against the visit of the US president in Athens on November 15, 2016
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Anger towards the euro has also extended to the EU itself, with just 40 per cent surveyed believing the union can be saved from eventual collapse.
While Mrs Merkel’s half of the German coalition has taken a hard-line on Greek’s bailout position, Mr Schulz is clinging to his EU roots in a move which his colleagues believe would be to the detriment of Germany and Greece.
The furore comes as Germany’s general election campaign begins ahead of the September vote, with Ms Nahles’ speech seen as an indication European and social solidarity will be one of Mr Schulz’ fighting topics.
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