August 2, 2015 / 5:04 PM / 4 years ago

French finance minister takes aim at German Schaeuble over Grexit idea

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (L), sitting next to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaks during a Bundesbank banking congress in Frankfurt, Germany, July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

BERLIN (Reuters) - French finance minister Michel Sapin has criticized his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble for suggesting that Greece could temporarily leave the euro zone, but said the Franco-German relationship is “not broken”.

In an interview with German business daily Handelsblatt, Sapin said Schaeuble was wrong to suggest the euro zone “time-out” — an idea the German finance minister floated last month during talks to clinch a deal to keep Greece in the bloc.

“I think that Wolfgang Schaeuble is wrong and is even getting into conflict with his deep European volition,” Sapin said in an interview to run in Handelsblatt’s Monday edition.

“This volition, and it is also mine, involves strengthening the euro zone,” he said, adding that this ruled out the possibility of a temporary exit from the 19-member currency union.

“If you allow a temporary departure, that means: every other country that finds itself in difficulties will want to get out of the affair via an adjustment of its currency,” Sapin added.

The French minister said he nonetheless wanted to work with Schaeuble to foster closer euro zone integration by strengthening economic policy governance.

However, treaty changes to introduce a European finance minister and a budget for the euro zone would not be possible before 2017, the paper reported Sapin as saying.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Catherine Evans

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