Centre-right German Chancellor. As the leader of the biggest economy in the eurozone and the biggest single creditor to Greece her voice is easily the most important. No deal gets done against her will. And if Greek banks are to be cut off by the European Central Bank (ECB) it will be because she has tacitly given the nod. Has played a good cop-bad cop routine with her finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, in negotiations, with him taking an intransigent line and her suggesting that a door to a deal always open. Question is whether she would be able to persuade her own Christian Democrat party to back another rescue for Greece in the Bundestag. Widely seen as having “blinked” the last time the euro looked under threat of break-up in 2012, by not objecting when ECB boss, Mario Draghi, calmed markets by announcing he would do “whatever it takes” to keep the single currency together.
Socialist French president. Second biggest eurozone economy and next largest Greek creditor after Germany. Has said Greeks must accept creditor demands, but he has also made softer noises than Germans or Dutch ministers. Expected to push for talks to continue, despite Greek “no” vote. French-German axis still central political relationship in the European Union and the eurozone. Question is whether Hollande has weight to persuade Merkel to change her mind if she decides Greece has come to end of road.
Italian president of European Central Bank. The fate of Greece’s banks are in his hands. If he cuts emergency funding they will collapse and the country will slide out of the euro. If he keeps it in place despite Greece’s default he will be accused of breaking the rules of the single currency and debauching the euro. Whichever option Draghi chooses he will be accused of taking an uwarranted political decision. Will likely push hard behind scenes for eurozone leaders to do a political deal with Athens that keeps Greece solvent and removes need for him to make a choice. If push comes to shove would probably not cut funding for Greece without being certain that is the expectation and will of the bloc’s political leaders.
French managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Berlin has insisted IMF must be part of any new bailout for Greece. But the Fund is pushing for Greece’s debt to be restructured or written down as a condition of taking part – anathema to Germany and other creditors. Lagarde has the effective power to veto any Greek deal if she judges IMF might not get money back. Under pressure from emerging world IMF members over manifest failure of original 2010 EU/IMF bailout and last week’s effective default by Athens. Reported to be concerned about her chances of re-election next year so inclined to take tough line.
Italian centre-left prime minister. Eurozone state with the largest national debt in cash terms – and after Greece the worst performing economy since the crisis. If Italy were to crash out the eurozone the whole bloc would likely break up. Has enacted important labour market reforms at home and has stuck rigidly to the tough German negotiating line with Greece. But domestic economy still very weak. And Renzi under pressure from Syriza-style leftists Five Star movement. Could switch to pushing behind scenes for deal with Greece.
Centre-right Spanish prime minister. Like Italy, Spain is large enough to be crucial to the eurozone’s future. And unlike Greece and Italy Spain’s economy has improved in recent years after labour market reforms, despite still painfully high unemployment. Rajoy faces national elections later this year and is under serious pressure from insurgent populists of Podemos. Likely to push hard against any deal with Greece that could boost or encourage Podemos. But could be overruled if Merkel, Hollande and Renzi decide to compromise.
Luxembourgish head of the European Commission. Speaks for the institutions of the European Union and has important role as broker in negotiations. Has been much keener on conciliation with Athens than Berlin so far. But personal views of much lower consequence than those of elected national leaders.
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