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EU congratulates Tsipras on election win

September 21, 2015

The EU has urged a speedy implementation of economic reforms in Greece after the election win of Alexis Tsipras. But there has been some questioning of his choice of coalition bedfellows.

Griechenland Alexis Tsipras Sieger der Parlamentswahlen
Image: Reuters/A. Bonetti/Syriza Press Office

The European Union on Monday congratulated Greek Prime Minister-elect Alexis Tsipras on his victory in elections a day previously, but also said Greece should waste no time in implementing economic reforms attached to its international bailout.

"The Commission congratulates Alexis Tsipras for his victory," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels.

"The new government will now have the mandate to carry out those reforms... There is a lot of work ahead and no time to lose," he added.

'Close partnership' with Germany

Germany, which played a key role in negotiating the bailout and often found itself at odds with the Greek position, has said it will work closely with the new Greek government both on its debt woes and the current refugee crisis.

"Of course the government will work closely and in the spirit of partnership with the new Greek government," said Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman.

"This offer applies both to jointly overcoming the debt crisis and to the challenges posed by the refugee situation, for which we need common answers," he said.

In July, Greece signed a deal with international creditors - the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - which will see it receiving a third rescue package worth up to 86 billion euros ($97 billion) in return for a number of harsh austerity measures.

In the midst of its financial troubles, the country is also struggling to cope with the tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Syria and elsewhere that are landing on Greek islands close to Turkey.

Bailout about-face

Tsipras was preparing on Monday for a return to office after his leftist Syriza party clinched a surprisingly easy election win in a snap poll the day before, with Greek voters forgiving him over his dramatic turnaround on the terms of the bailout.

Tsipras won his first term in office on campaign pledges to end five years of austerity measures tied to the first two international aid packages, but was forced to accept the third bailout after months of negotiation with creditors to avoid Greece's forced exit from the eurozone.

To achieve the absolute majority necessary to govern, having fallen six seats short at 145 spots, Tsipras has said he will renew the previous coalition with the small right-wing Independent Greeks party, which polled less than 4 percent of the vote.

Uneasy alliance?

The head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has expressed misgivings at Tsipras' choice of partner.

Schulz feels the coalition could lead to difficultiesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Hoslet

Speaking to Radio France Inter, Schulz said he had asked Tsipras to explain the reasons for selecting a party at the other end of the political spectrum, but had received little answer.

"I called him a second time to ask him why he was continuing a coalition with this stange, far-right party," Schulz said. "He pretty much didn't answer. He is very clever, especially by telephone. He told me things that seemed convincing, but which ultimately in my eyes are a little bizare."

In the radio interview, Schulz called Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos a "loose cannon" and reiterated that he could not understand the alliance with a "far-right, populist party."

The Independent Greeks party differs from Syriza on a number of issues, supporting a crackdown on illegal immigration and favoring close links between the Orthodox Church and the state.

Kammenos has also condemned the bailout accepted by Tsipras, saying it had reduced Greece to a "debt colony."

tj/msh (Reuters, AFP)