Opinion hardens in Germany against further negotiations with Syriza

‘You can’t seriously expect’ creditors to negotiate with Greece – Wolfgang Schauble

German chancellor Angela Merkel: said she would not be blackmailed into an agreement with Athens at any price. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel: said she would not be blackmailed into an agreement with Athens at any price. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Getty Images

 

Germany

– and will involve a wider and deeper EU integration push.

An animated finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble defended Berlin’s Greek strategy in the Bundestag yesterday, saying “you can’t seriously expect” its creditors to negotiate with Greece given the mixed signals from prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

“Greece must clarify its position on what it wants, and then we will have to talk,” said Dr Schäuble, repeatedly saying “I feel sorry for the Greeks.”

With the expiry at midnight of the second Greek EU-IMF programme, he said any new negotiations on Greece’s future in the euro zone would take place in a new reality and “under much more difficult conditions”.

And, with a nod to backbencher doubts over backing further loans to Athens, he added that future talks must be bedded down in “other steps” of euro zone integration.

“A currency union where a partner says ‘that doesn’t interest me, I’ll do nothing’, that’s not on,” said Dr Schäuble. “Trust and dependability are basic demands . . . otherwise the European project, that’s what’s at stake.”

As MPs studied their smartphones for the latest details from Athens, chancellor Angela Merkel decided to adopt a presidential tone in her address rather than saying anything new. She would await the result of Sunday’s referendum before acting and would not be blackmailed into an agreement with Athens at any price.

“The current situation is a challenge but a torment for the people in Greece,” she said. “But a good European is not the one who wants an agreement at any price but the one who adheres to European and national law.”

She told the Bundestag the “door for talks was, is and will always remain open for the Greek government”, a new variation of her mantra that “where there is a will there is a way” to agreement with Athens. Off the record, however, her senior officials are less diplomatic.

Trust in the Greek Syriza-lead government was “gone”, said one, and Berlin saw “no will and no way” to work with Mr Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues after Sunday’s vote. Social Democratic (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel, economics minister and deputy chancellor in Berlin’s grand coalition, said “we all underestimated how big the institutional problems are [in Greece]”.

The heated Bundestag debate saw MPs from the opposition Left and Green parties describe Berlin’s crisis politics as a failure and demand further debt relief for Greece. “The European idea is at risk of being trampled by this nationalist blame game,” said Anton Hofreiter, Greens co-Bundestag leader. “You are all putting domestic political considerations ahead of Europe’s common interests.”

A new study by Munich’s influential Ifo economic insitute calculated Germany’s total exposure to Greece at €88.7 billion. Ifo president Hans-Werner Sinn said he saw no alternative but a Greek exit from the currency. “If I was [finance minister] Yanis Varoufakis, ” said Prof Sinn, “I would leave . . . and then return in perhaps a decade when Greece has recovered.”