Media condemns 'shambolic' crisis management


European media condemned the EU's 'shambolic' Greek crisis management and fretted the region was pouring money down an endless drain by giving aid to discredited political leaders in Athens.

Some commentators said today a swelling popular backlash in Greece against yet harsher frugality was driving the country towards the disastrous default a rescue is supposed to prevent.

Austrian mass-circulation tabloid Oesterreich, expressing rising taxpayer resentment around the EU, called for an EU-wide plebiscite "to let those who have to pay for Greece decide" whether to rescue it again or preserve "a euro without Greece".

Euro zone finance ministers yesterday postponed a final decision on extending €12 billion in emergency loans to Greece, saying the Greek parliament first had to enact laws on fiscal reforms and selling off state assets.

A vote is expected by the end of June but Greece's political elite is under widening, intensifying popular pressure to dilute if not postpone the next round of financial shock therapy sought by markets to curb systemic Greek profligacy and corruption.

"It is a win that all 17 (euro zone) states have said for the first time the private sector must be involved and that (the contribution) should be substantial," Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager told Dutch radio.

"But there's still a long way to go," Mr de Jager said. "Will Greece be able to get all the painful measures passed through the parliament in coming days? Without that, we will not be involved. It is important that pressure is kept on Greece."

But some analysts said escalating the aid may ultimately be for nought since Greece's leaders had lost public respect and its economy was unlikely to grow and regain competitiveness without exiting the monetary straitjacket imposed by the euro.

"(The Greek protest) movement is different from previous forms of collective action. It shows a deep crisis of legitimacy not just for the party in power but of a political system and state as such," the French centre-left daily Liberation said in an editorial written by Greek analyst Stathis Kouvelakis.

Ta Nea, a centre-left, pro-government Greek daily, welcomed what it said were signs from recent Greek negotiations with EU creditors that it would be able to spare the financially neediest Greeks from the next "austerity clamp".

"Our lenders and partners do not wish to see the Greek economy collapsing. In this context the government can argue that to achieve targets Greek society must not be exhausted."

But centre-left newspaper Ethnos said prime minister George Papandreou's Socialist government was caught "in an iron social and political vice" by popular resistance to more sacrifice.

"The stance of society (veers between) negative to massively angry. All parties are refusing to work with the government and are asking for elections," Ethnos warned.

The Eleftherotypia daily vented the view of many ordinary Greeks, blaming the EU and other outsiders for their crisis.

"Led by Germany the EU, instead of showing solidarity and trying to solve the problem as a family matter in the Union, confronted Greece. It imposed punishing rules... instead of providing help," Eleftherotypia said. "Today Greece is at risk of becoming Europe's little whore."

Underlining the peril to some EU coalition governments inherent in showering more money on Greece, the leader of the Dutch rightist Freedom Party that props up the minority government said it opposed more largesse for Greeks.

"Greece should leave the euro zone and reintroduce the drachma (pre-euro currency). No more Dutch tax money to the corrupt and de facto bankrupt Greek," Geert Wilders said.

He said that if the Dutch government joined a new bailout for Greece, then it "will have a major and very serious political problem with my party".

In Germany, Europe's most widely read and influential newspaper Bild said financially squeezed taxpayers were bristling at conservative chancellor Angela Merkel's readiness to cough up more relief for Greece rather than her own people.

"Will the Greek crisis ruin all hopes for tax cuts in Germany? In Germany more and more citizens are asking themselves - there is money for the Greeks but when will there be some for me, the simple taxpayer?" Bild said.

The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine said Dr Merkel was working feverishly to come up with a permanent EU financial stability regime "but is giving out the impression of a fire marshal in perpetual stress: several fires, few pails, no plan".

"The German government calls this 'crisis politics' ... But the citizen does not understand where this is going... this yo-yo-ing is difficult to explain to the voter," the German financial daily Handelsblatt said in an editorial.

"Political pressure on Merkel from the conservatives and her coalition is rising immensely," it said.

The liberal Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Germans are "warily asking whether it can be right to tie up one package after another for a country being governed by corrupt elites.

"Should Greece not leave the EU, or reapply? ... For a long time the Greek crisis has not been (so much) about money but about the biggest asset the EU has - its credibility. Its disastrous crisis management is making citizens, allies and financial markets nervous," the Sueddeutsche said.

Austria's Oesterreich said zigzagging over Greek aid pointed to a lack of a strategy allowing "shameless financial markets (to) blackmail apparently helpless politicians", and it called for an EU-wide referendum.

"EU citizens should decide if they want to give Greece €120 billion euros to rescue the euro. Or if they want a euro without Greece. Inform voters finally and let those that have to pay for Greece decide," Oesterreich said.