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Mixed German messages on Greece serve a purpose

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German government officials have appeared to send mixed messages about their desire for Greece to keep using the euro — and that's just the way they want it.

The approach has helped keep up the pressure on a Greek government viewed in Berlin with deep suspicion, while also keeping increasingly disgruntled conservative German lawmakers in line.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Chancellor Angela Merkel's hawkish finance minister, has been in the spotlight since a leaked document from his ministry proposed the possibility of a voluntary, temporary Greek euro exit — suggesting in the strongest terms yet that Athens' European creditors were contemplating a Eurozone without Greece.

That helped turn up the heat on Athens ahead of Monday's agreement on a bailout plan full of tough conditions.

Even after that deal, Schaeuble continued talking about a potential "Grexit" ahead of a Greek Parliament vote Wednesday on new austerity measures and Friday's German Parliament vote to approve detailed bailout talks. On Thursday, he said that "it would perhaps be a better way for Greece, and many say that — increasingly in Greece too."

The tough talk appeared aimed in part at reassuring wavering lawmakers in Merkel's and Schaeuble's own conservative bloc that their leaders weren't about to go soft on Greece's radical left-led government.

The German Parliament has to vote on all-new rescue packages and major amendments to existing ones. Once a bailout is finalized — expected to take several weeks — Merkel will have to face lawmakers again, and she needs to keep in check distaste and resistance to the bailouts in her conservative bloc.

For now, the dissent was manageable in Parliament, where Merkel's coalition has a huge majority. Lawmakers voted 439-119, with 40 abstentions, to give the government a mandate for talks with Greece.

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