Athens and Brussels negotiate on debt
The EU and the new Greek government have started discussions about the country's debt. After a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday in Athens, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he sees a willingness to negotiate. The EU has the upper hand, some commentators write. Others say the Union must compromise if it wants to take the wind out of the sails of Eurosceptics.
Tsipras's costly gamble
By announcing an end to privatisations and other economic policy measures Alexis Tsipras has already gone too far just a few days after taking office, the left-liberal daily Der Standard complains: "Tsipras is acting is if Europe needs Greece and must do everything to prevent it from leaving the Eurozone. But the reaction of the financial markets demonstrates the contrary: Greek shares are plummeting but the other stock markets are calm. The EU partners can afford to let Tsipras do his worst. After all, it's the Greeks that want to stay in the Eurozone. As understandable as the plans of the government in Athens may be from a social point of view, the fact is that it wants to hand out money it doesn't have, and that neither private investors nor other states will lend it. Tsipras will soon fact the choice of either backing down or risking the Grexit. Whatever he decides, his gamble certainly won't encourage a constructive debate about the austerity policy in the Eurozone."
Compromise could thwart Eurosceptics
By seeking dialogue with the new Greek government the EU can also send a signal to other Eurosceptic states, the left-liberal weekly Le Jeudi writes: "Yes, the going will be tough. Nonetheless, in this community of people and interests that is the European Union we must not forget to listen to the voice of the Greeks. ... Listening to, and still better understanding the Greeks also means finding a response to the nationalist, separatist and Eurosceptic menaces that are seeing the light in many places - especially given that this year Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Spain and Portugal are all preparing to vote."
Athens has lost touch with economic reality
Euro Group chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem is visiting Athens today, Friday, to advise the new government on its plans for dealing with the debt crisis. Journalist Nikos Meletis hopes in the left-liberal daily Ethnos that Finance Minister Giannis Varoufakis will present an alternative to the debt cut Syriza demands: "Dijsselbloem is not coming to hear a lecture on economic theory. If he wanted to do that he would go to Harvard, not the Greek parliament. ... Varoufakis probably hasn't realised yet that he's no longer sitting in his office at the University of Texas. ... He hasn't yet understood that his partners for dialogue are [Germany's Finance Minister] Schäuble, Dijsselbloem and [ECB chief] Draghi, for whom pretty academic terms are not enough. Because we're talking about money here, a whole lot of money. I wish Varoufakis had a secret plan up his sleeve. … Because what's really worrying is that he refuses to accept the reality of the situation."
Debt cut as reward for reforms
The debt negotiations between Athens and its creditors hold out the prospect of an acceptable compromise that could serve as a model for other crisis states, the liberal business magazine The Economist believes: "Hence this newspaper's solution: get Mr Tsipras to junk his crazy socialism and to stick to structural reforms in exchange for debt forgiveness - either by pushing the maturity of Greek debt out even further or, better still, by reducing its face value. Mr Tspiras could vent his leftist urges by breaking up Greece's cosy protected oligopolies and tackling corruption. The combination of macroeconomic easing with microeconomic structural reform might even provide a model for other countries, like Italy and even France."