Greece elections: Syriza’s triumph a blow for Germany but Greeks warned not to delude themselves over EU debt

Angela Merkel's government remained adamant that the new Athens coalition would have to stick to the European Union’s savings programme

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The Independent Online

Greece’s landslide leftist election victory was seen in Germany as a humiliating defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her eurozone austerity regime yesterday. But her government remained adamant that the new Athens coalition would have to stick to the European Union’s savings programme.

Der Spiegel magazine chose to break the news of radical left Syriza’s triumph by posting a photograph on its website of a Greek anti-austerity protester brandishing a giant placard that read: “Good Night Angela Merkel”.

“Merkel confronts the shattered remains of her crisis policies,” remarked one commentator.

The impact of Syriza’s win was felt keenly in Germany where taxpayers shouldered €65bn (£50bn) worth of Greek debt. Calls from Syriza leader Alexis Tsiparas for an end to the EU’s disastrous savings policies and negotiations for a Greek debt write off have been greeted with alarm in Berlin.

However, Ms Merkel’s government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, sought to play down the impact of the result and offered no prospect of a change in EU policy for Athens: “We respect the sovereign decision of the Greek electorate,” he told a press conference in Berlin.


He added: “The new Athens government will have to take steps to foster Greece’s economic recovery. This also means Greece sticking to its previous commitments.”

Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior MP in Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Party, said that Germany would not “honour” the scrapping of agreements Greece had reached with its EU partners. His views were echoed by Ms Merkel’s left of centre Social Democrat coalition partners.

Thomas Oppermann, the party’s parliamentary leader, warned Syriza against reneging on Greece’s commitments. “The new government remains bound by Greece’s agreements with the EU and the Troika. There will be no concessions without reciprocal measures,” he insisted.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the German vice-president of the European Parliament, dismissed the idea of a Greek debt write off: “He [Tsipras] shouldn’t delude himself into thinking that he can get a write off.” The most the new Greek Prime Minister could expect would be extended deadlines for credit repayments and lower interest rates, he said.

Earlier this year, Ms Merkel and her veteran Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble leaked suggestions to the media that Berlin was contemplating the hitherto unthinkable prospect of Greece exiting the EU in the event of a Syriza victory. The leak was interpreted as a veiled threat to Greek voters.

Yesterday, however, there was no hint of a so-called “Grexit.” Analysts said the idea was highly unlikely, not least because opinion polls, estimate that 80 per cent of Greece’s electorate wants to remain in the eurozone.