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Germany Shouldn't Tolerate 'Greece Bashing': Schroeder

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told CNBC that his successor, Angela Merkel, should never have tolerated the Greece-bashing as the euro zone debt crisis unravelled.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Michael Gottschalk | AFP | Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

"The one mistake the German chancellor made was that she tolerated Greece-bashing and sometimes, did so herself. That should not have happened," said Schroeder in an interview in Brussels.

"The Second World War and the period prior to that has not vanished from the collective memory of many Europeans," he added. "For that reason, despite playing an important role in Europe, Germany should work closely with France and other partners."

While refusing to comment on Merkel's relationship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Schroeder called for a return to the European politics of decade ago.

"The French are not always easy partners to work with," he said. "But one has to understand that nothing in Europe can work without an agreement between France and Germany, nothing at all."

Still, no matter what Germany and France do, Schroeder believes some Europeans will not be satisfied.

"One can make the following observation: Whenever the two countries are able to agree on an issue, there will be people who will say that we are dominating the discussion," he said. "But if we disagree, then people will complain about us not agreeing. In essence, Germany and France have to find a common voice and learn not to take criticisms too seriously."

The current crisis facing Europe makes agreement very difficult even within euro zone member states, and Schroeder believes the crisis is down to a lack of discipline.

"I think that the crisis is above all a crisis of different spending behaviour in different countries," he said. "One needs to have more discipline in that respect."

That does not have anything to do with a "German" Europe, said Schroeder, who believes a proposed financial transaction tax is a good idea.

This view on the transaction tax puts Schroeder in position he knows well, at odds with the British.

"Well, you know, my experience always was that they wanted to have a say in the issues of the euro zone but never really had the will to join the euro zone. The crisis has shown that this should not happen."

Criticism of the euro project is not something one of its founders will take lying down and Schroeder is confident Greece will turn things around.

"I believe that Greece will do its homework but might need more time than some people are willing to give it," he said. "I think Greece will get its budget under control, which will limit contagion. Therefore they need to have the time to do that."

"In return, Europe will continue to help," he added. "One should concentrate on that and stop all this speculation which of course is more interesting to you than to the Greeks."