Greeks ask EU: why does Spain get a better deal?
Anti-austerity Syriza – expected winners of next week's election – demand bailout on Madrid's terms
The Spanish bailout has been seized upon by the radical left in Greece as proof that the crisis-hit country can renegotiate the strict conditions attached to its financial rescue – the central issue in the upcoming elections.
Madrid became the fourth eurozone nation to request a bailout at the weekend when it turned to its European partners for a €100bn loan. But unlike Greece, whose rescue deal came with a mandate for savage public spending cuts and tax rises, Spain managed to dodge the austerity bullet, as the bailout applies exclusively to the country's banking sector. Nonetheless, ahead of this weekend's polls in Greece, the radical left wing Syriza party told The Independent that the Spanish rescue agreement strengthened Athens's bargaining position. Syriza came to prominence after the first round of the elections, last month, failed to deliver a decisive mandate for any one party. Differences over the bailout deal – Syriza opposed the strict terms imposed – eventually led to a collapse of coalition talks. This weekend's polls could thus decide the country's future within the eurozone.
"The Spanish bailout is] positive for us because it shows there is room for other policies; and Europe, especially Germany seemed to retreat on its calls for austerity," said Gabriel Sakelaridis, the coordinator of Syriza's Economic Committee. With days to go before the elections, Syriza and the conservative pro-bailout New Democracy party are vying for the lead in opinion polls. In contrast to Syriza's message, New Democracy appealed to voters by saying that the Spanish rescue indicated how Greece can improve its position by cooperating with Europe, rather than turning its back on it. The Greek media also welcomed the news from Madrid. The headline in the conservative Eleftheros Typos newspaper read "Spanish window for renegotiation", arguing that Greece should seize the chance to forge an alternative to austerity. But pundits warned the two countries cannot be compared as their financial woes are rooted in fundamentally different realties. "Spain is a totally different case: it's mainly a banking sector crisis whereas in Greece it's a multifaceted crisis triggered by the public sector debt," said political analyst, George Tzogopoulos.
Syriza's Gabriel Sakelardis agreed the cases are dissimilar but maintained that harsh fiscal measures are the culprit for Spain's banking predicament. "Austerity is what made things worse for Spanish banks, the way it's equally damaging for Greece's recession."
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