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09/12/2016

EU leaders bewildered as Greeks elect Syriza

Elections

EU leaders bewildered as Greeks elect Syriza

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[European People's Party/Flickr]

Reactions to Syriza’s rise to power were either muted, or ranged from delight to panic, as European leaders prepared a coordinated answer to the triumph of Alexis Tsipras.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the first EU leaders to react on Twitter, warning on Sunday that the Greek election would raise economic uncertainty across Europe.

“The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe. That’s why the UK must stick to our plan, delivering security at home,” Cameron said on his official Twitter feed.

Cameron made his comments after Greece’s left-wing Syriza appeared on course to trounce the ruling conservatives in Sunday’s election, setting up a possible confrontation with Greece’s international creditors.

Claiming victory later on Monday, Tsipras said that five years of austerity, “humiliation and suffering” imposed by international creditors were over, raising doubts about the country’s international bailout programme and it future in the eurozone.

But others were delighted. French President Francois Hollande congratulated Tsipras on Sunday and pledged to work together to support growth and stability in the eurozone.

In a statement issued by the French presidency, Hollande expressed his “desire to pursue the close cooperation between our two countries in service of growth and the stability of the euro zone, in a spirit of progress, solidarity and responsibility that is at the heart of the European values we share.”

In Brussels, the European Commission and the European Council were yet to release an official statement on Monday morning. But it is no secret that the EU executive is sceptical of Syriza’s anti-austerity policy and promise to renegotiate Athens’ bailout.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has asked EU countries to honour their commitments in the run-up to the Greek general election.

“Europe will continue to support Greece, but it is expected that Athens will stick to the promises made to its partners,” Juncker said.

A top source in the Commission told EurActiv that any renegotiation of debt would cost the Eurozone dearly. “We have to allow the electoral process to unfold,” the source said, adding, “if a nation wants to deceive itself, it’s up to them”.

>> Read: Commission fears Greece is ‘deceiving’ itself

http://www.euractiv.com/video/eurogroup-head-there-little-support-greek-debt-write-311559

Positions

Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), wondered how Europe's political leaders will react to the Greek election and other "political earthquakes" she predicted for 2015.

“If our political elites think they can muddle through business-more-or-less-as-usual, too scared not to do what big business tells them, they are quite wrong," she wrote. "The people are angry. They will not be fooled by nice words, they expect actions and results in tackling the problems facing Europe – too many unemployed, too much inequality, too much social unfairness.”

Pierre Laurent, President of the Party of the European Left, which counts Syriza among its members, hailed the result of the Greek elections, saying: "The time to change the austerity policies has arrived”.

"Change can begin in Greece. And the left alliance is crucial for the change," said Alepa Krasopuolou, a Syriza representative who spoke on Sunday at the Forum for the South of Europe in Barcelona. The forum, which gathered representatives of leftist political parties, social movements, trade unions and other activists, marked support for Syriza, pledging to combat what they called "the neoliberal strategy of austerity" represented by the Troika of Greece's international lenders.

A Green New Deal for Europe, policies to put an end to unemployment, and the change of role of the European Central Bank were among the 10 key measures featured in the Declaration of Barcelona, adopted on Sunday.

Background

Greece pulled out of a painful six-year recession in 2014 and has tapped bond markets twice after a four-year exile, but investors have begun to fear a return to the days of crisis as the presidential vote looms.

On 8 December, eurozone ministers decided to grant Greece a two-month extension to its bailout, rather than settle for the six-month extension to which Athens had objected. This was a boost, giving the country just enough time to wrap up a delayed bailout review before it exits the programme for good.

Since last summer, polls have shown that an early election would bring the Syriza party to power. The radical left wing party was Greece's biggest winner in the 2014 European elections.

>> Read: Leftist Syriza wins Greek EU poll, requests early general election