Greek bailout extension receives mixed reactions across Europe | News | DW | 21.02.2015
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Greek bailout extension receives mixed reactions across Europe

European leaders and media have responded with ambivalence to the four-month loan extensions agreed to by the bloc's foreign ministers. Athens, many have pointed out, still has promises to fulfill.

Greece's left-wing government struggled to put on a brave face Saturday as they came to terms with the compromise that was agreed in principle in Brussels on Friday.

Juxtaposing their anti-austerity ambitions and campaign promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government agreed on Friday to receiving a four-month extension of their bailout.

Tsipras said on Saturday that the deal was key to leaving behind the austerity program he campaigned against.

"Yesterday we took a decisive step, leaving austerity, the bailouts and the troika," he said in a televised statement. "We won a battle, not the war. The difficulties, the real difficulties ...are ahead of us."

Athens now has just two days to submit a list of economic and other reforms satisfy its eurozone peers in order to fully secure the draft accord.

"If the list of reforms is not agreed, this agreement is dead," Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis admitted after the talks.

Criticism at home and abroad

Greece's opposition socialists criticized the deal, however, saying it took Greece "kilometers backwards," and accused the government of engaging in "theatrics for domestic consumption."

Liberal Greek newspaper Kathimerini was also less than impressed, speaking of the deal's "stifling" conditions. Center-left paper Ta Nea, however, said "both sides had made compromises."

Greichenland und EU Flaggen

Greek politicians have to convince voters at home they got the best deal possible

Outside of Greece, French President Francois Hollande on Saturday described the potential accord as a "good compromise," telling reporters that it would benefit both Greece and the rest of Europe.

Welcoming Friday night's compromise with open arms on Saturday was left-liberal Spanish paper El Pais, which described the draft accord as "wonderful news, especially because of the direct effects."

"A break from the eurozone would have brought the irreversibility of the entire currency and thereby the stability of ever member state into question," the paper added.

The draft accord, however, was also met with some trepidation. Liberal Danish newspaper Politiken wrote on Saturday that Europe had "avoided an unpredictable period with a weak economy by means of a temporary solution."

The paper also criticized the eurozone members and governments for "giving Greece cheap loans to enable them to continue, in the belief that no eurozone country could ever face real problems." Although Denmark is a member of the European Union, it is not part of the 19-member euro common currency zone and continues to use Danish krone.

Conservative Austrian paper Die Presse also warned on Saturday that "the compromise in Brussels was only half the battle," adding that the decision as to whether Greece leaves the eurozone will take off again in just a few months.

"Similar to Berlin, Vienna's treasury is hopeful that Greece will be brought back down to earth," the Austrian paper added.

Complete package

The deputy parliamentary floor leader for the CDU on financial matters, Ralph Brinkhaus, accepted Friday's proposed deal, but insisted on a thorough examination of the agreement before a vote in parliament. Brinkhaus said that the "complete package must add up." If eurozone finance ministers are able to reach an agreement next week, national parliaments will have to approve any changes to the bailout program's terms.

German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, the head of the Munich-based Ifo economic institute, went as far as saying Greece should leave the eurozone.

"Additional money is nothing but a pain reliever for the Greek disease and does not help with the healing process," said Sinn, the German dpa news agency reported. "Greece has become too expensive as a result of the euro and needs to be cheaper to regain its competitiveness. This is only possible through exiting the euro and the devaluation of the drachma."

Reality vs. the dream

Tsipras mit Giannis Varoufakis Archiv 2014

Tsipras and Varoufakis have to come up with a list of how they'll meet conditions finance ministers' put on the deal

In the face of such opposition, Varoufakis and Tsipras have a long road ahead of them, however, before the eurozone finance ministers seal the deal on Tuesday. Their harshest critic, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the agreement promised to be a tough sell to government supporters.

"Being in government is a rendez-vous with reality. Quite frequently it is not as nice as the dream," said Schäuble who has clashed with the Greek finance minister over his casual negotiating style.

Eckhardt Rehberg, the budgetary affairs spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said on Saturday that he "assumes" Greece will have to apply for a third financial aid program in the summer.

"I have as many doubts now as before," Rehberg said.

Following Friday's talks, eurogroup head and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the trust between Greece and the other 18 eurozone member states will be "on the basis of the agreements and changes in the agreements which will have to be worked out."

ksb/sms (AFP, dpa)

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