Emmanuel Macron, the man widely expected to be the next French president, tried to help Greece avoid crippling austerity measures but was frozen out of negotiations by Germany's Angela Merkel, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The confrontation at the height of the 2015 Greek debt crisis is revealed in “Adults in the Room”, the new memoir of Yanis Varoufakis, the controversial former Greek finance minister who tried - but failed - to win debt relief for Greece.
The episode sheds new light on the potentially awkward relationship between Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel who, polls suggest, is on track to win a record-equalling fourth term as German leader later this year.
Mr Macron, an ardent pro-European, formed a strong bond with Mr Varoufakis, making clear that he believed that the crippling austerity being inflicted on Greece in return for bailouts could lead to the ultimate destruction of the Eurozone.
On June 28 2015, with Greece’s bank on the cusp of closure, Mr Varoufakis writes that he received a text from Mr Macron offering to broker a last-minute deal to win debt-relief for Greece in return for structural reforms.
“I do not want my generation to be the one responsible for Greece exiting Europe,” Mr Macron wrote, offering to broker a meeting between the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and President Francois Hollande.
The attempt, however, was blocked by Germany whose ultra-hawkish finance minister Wolfgang Schaueble was suggesting that Greece take a 'holiday' from membership of the euro.
Three months later, after Mr Varoufakis had resigned in protest at the Greek government’s capitulation to its troika of creditors, Mr Macron explained that the German leader had elbowed him aside after he had called the Greek debt deal a "modern-day version of the Versailles Treaty".
“Merkel had heard him and, according to Emmanuel, ordered Hollande to keep Macron out of the Greek negotiations,” writes Mr Varoufakis. “Merkel’s spell was every bit as powerful as I had imagined.”
The stand-off poses interesting questions about the Merkel-Macron relationship which will be pivotal to the future of Europe as it enters the Brexit negotiations and continued long-term uncertainty over the future of the Euro.
In an earlier episode Mr Macron does manage to persuade Mrs Merkel to order the Eurogroup creditors to compromise with Greece, leading to the brokering of a respite period for Greece in February of that year, which proved short-lived.
Mr Macron has propose sweeping integration for the Eurozone, including a budget and finance minister, moves which Germany has consistently resisted, fearing that its taxpayer will be picking up the bill for the EU’s fiscal integration.
Mr Macron, the economy minister in Francois Hollande's government, formed a strong relationship with Mr Varoufakis during his six-month battle with what he calls Europe’s “deep establishment”.
Mr Varoufakis says that Mr Macron, who quit the Hollande government to run as an independent, was “on the same page” regarding the need to free Greece from unsustainable cuts and growth targets.
Two years later, Greece is currently preparing to sign a deal with the EU and IMF for the next €7bn tranche of its bailout, committing itself to more sweeping pension cuts and income tax rises after the current bailout program ends next year.
The potential deal comes after months of stand-off between Germany and the IMF which now believes that Europe’s calculation of Greece debt sustainability are unrealistic and unsustainable.
Greece’s debt currently stands at 179 per cent of its gross domestic product, or about €315 billion euros.
The country has endured six consecutive years of recession, the loss of 28 per cent of its national income.
Mr Macron’s desire to break the Greek deadlock is contrasted unfavourably with the supine attitude of his boss, Michel Sapin, the French finance minister.
In one notable early encounter Mr Sapin privately concedes to Mr Varoufakis that the German “fixation with austerity” is damaging Europe, but minutes later walks into a press conference and toes the German line.
Confronted afterwards by Mr Varoufakis, the French minister makes no effort to hide his country’s capitulation to Berlin.
“Yanis, you must understand this,” says Mr Sapin by way of apology, “France is not what it used to be.”
“From my first meeting with him, I regretted dearly that it was [Mr] Sapin who represented France in the Eurogroup and not [Mr] Macron,” writes Mr Varoufakis, “Had they swapped roles, things might have ended up differently.”