Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has reaped criticism for giving voice to his view that Greece should abandon the euro.
"Parochial whining" - that's how a leading party colleague dismissed the controversial remarks by Christian Social Union General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt about Greece and the euro crisis. Dobrindt had told the Sunday edition of Germany's Bild newspaper that there was no way around Greece's exit from the eurozone.
Dobrindt's remarks contradicted Chancellor Angela Merkel's statements on Friday at a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras: "I want Greece to remain part of the eurozone." She also added she knows "no one in the government factions who does not want that." Unfortunately, Dobrindt does happen to be a member of the joint parliamentary faction that includes Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister the CSU.
Asked about Dobrindt's remarks during a television interview broadcast on Sunday night, Merkel said that this was a decisive phase of saving the euro. "Therefore I think we should all weigh our words," she said.
Other Christian Democrats were even clearer. On Monday (27.08.2012), Merkel's deputy in the CDU, Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier said, "The business is difficult enough, it will not get any easier if every day someone drops another clanger."
Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) said in a similar vein: "The situation is too serious to be dealt with by rhetorical one-upmanship." The CDU European Commissioner Günther Oettinger said, "The style is not appropriate, nor is the content, and the calculation behind it certainly isn't."
Electioneering with the euro
The "calculation" that Oettinger referred to is what he considers the CSU's attempts to position itself better ahead of the upcoming Bavarian state election with tougher rhetoric against crisis-stricken eurozone countries. But many party colleagues believe Dobrindt is going too far. CSU Bundestag chairwoman Gerda Hasselfeldt warned, "Whether Greece stays in the eurozone or not, is not a question that can be decided at this time or by a gut feeling." Hasselfeldt's deputy Max Straubinger was clearer still. The phrase "parochial whining" comes from him, accompanied with the words, "It's absurd to think Greece will get to its feet faster with the drachma."
FDP keeps its distance
On Monday, the Bavarian leader of the Free Democratic Party, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, demanded an intervention from CSU leader Horst Seehofer. Seehofer should put Secretary Dobrindt in his place and commit unequivocally to Europe's course and the government coalition in Berlin, she said. "Mr. Seehofer must make clear that the CSU will not lobby against Europe in its election campaign. Europe is far too valuable to be threatened by populist blather."
Seehofer has not voiced his opinion on the euro crisis for some time now. It is a CSU habit for the party leader to remain reticent and send the general secretary out as the "calf biter" - what Bavarians call a vicious little dog. But unusually, this time there has been no political cover. Even Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, who at the start of August said the Greeks should be "made an example of," has remained silent.
The Bavarian FDP, coalition partners with the CSU, have kept their distance. Bavarian Economy Minister Martin Zeil of the FDP initially supported his colleague Söder, though not in the same tone. But at the federal level, FDP leader Philipp Rösler joined Merkel in stressing that Greece should remain in the eurozone. Though Rösler has never claimed the opposite, he did raise a furore a few weeks ago by remarking that the prospect of a Greek departure from the euro "is no longer so frightening."