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01/10/2016

Pro-Syriza Socialists criticise French government’s cautious stance

Euro & Finance

Pro-Syriza Socialists criticise French government’s cautious stance

A solidarity demonstration in Amsterdam.

[Carolina_ Georgatou/Flickr]

France’s Socialists want to keep Greece in the fold, but the party’s left wing believes the government is not doing enough to avoid Grexit. EurActiv France reports.

The French left, and particularly the Socialist Party, is increasingly concerned by the Greek crisis and the prospect of Grexit. France’s objective has thus far been to preserve the eurozone at all costs. But following a calamitous Eurogroup meeting last weekend, French Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, Minister of Finance Michel Sapin and President François Hollande were all forced to accept that they would have to be prepared for the worst.

François Hollande reaffirmed his stance on Greece after the latest Council meeting. “An agreement with Greece is still possible,” he said. But no deal is forthcoming.

Into the void

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, the Greek-descended president of the French Socialist Party, has made no attempt to hide his opposition to the idea of Greece leaving the eurozone.

He told iTélé on 22 June that Grexit would be “a leap into the void”.

For the left wing of the party, the government’s position on the Greek crisis has been too reserved.

Preserving French-German relations

Socialist MEP Emmanuel Maurel summed up the situation as he sees it: “The problem is that François Holande wants to preserve his relationship with Angela Merkel, which has been on the up lately. But this is not acceptable.”

The Greens feel much the same way.

In an interview with Libération, French Green MEP Yannick Jadot said, “Basically, Hollande told Tsipras: ‘Follow our example, bend the knee to Merkel, go and get your bottom smacked in Berlin because we don’t want to change a system that we know to be absurd’. The other European countries refuse to allow Tsipras to question a ridiculous system, and Hollande, in particular, does not want to give the Greek prime minister what he failed to give in 2012, with the Stability and Growth Pact that he promised to renegotiate. Nobody wants to admit that Europe made a mistake with Greece.”

The German Chancellor made it clear on Monday that a negative response to Sunday’s referendum would leave Greece with no option but to leave the single currency.

“It’s no wonder the Greeks slammed the door on the negotiations, when you look at what they were being offered,” the MEP added.

Emmanuel Maurel and the Greens are not the alone in their support for Syriza.

The issue divided the Socialist Party congress in Poitiers in June. The left-wing faction booed the anti-Syriza members, while pro-Syriza speakers were received with applause.

“Too bad for German savers”

“France must commit to standing resolutely beside the Greeks, and not just paying them lip service. And too bad if it has to come at the expense of the old German savers!” Maurel added.

This controversial issue has been a deciding factor in European elections for the last year. Denmark was the latest country to see an explosion in the populist vote, with the Danish People’s Party becoming the country’s second political force.

>> Read: Liberals form small, minority government in Denmark

The French government now appears to be in a delicate position. François Hollande cannot publically oppose Angela Merkel’s statement on Monday that negotiations could not continue until after the referendum, without compromising relations between the two leaders, which have thawed recently.

>>Read: Ukraine crisis strengthens French-German relationship

“But in terms of domestic policy, François Hollande would do well to cast himself as the saviour of the Greek people. This is what he is aiming to do, even if it is becoming rather difficult,” a source from the French Socialist Party told EurActiv.

On the right of French politics, the Republicans have adopted a position of full frontal opposition to the Syriza government. Republican (formerly UMP) MEP Françoise Grossetête on Monday described Alexis Tsipras as “the gravedigger of European solidarity”.

“Making the decision not to respect the conditions is a serious affront to democracy, to the French and German citizens who have contributed so much, and to all the European citizens that would be thrown into a period of unprecedented economic and geopolitical instability by a Greek default,” the MEP said.

Background

The anti-austerity Syriza party marked a stunning victory in a Greek snap election held on 25 January, but did not ensure an absolute majority.

Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, said the “vicious cycle of austerity” was over, triggering mixed reactions in the EU.

Tsipras stated that the Greek public debt is not viable, and asked for its restructuring. The debt amounts to 177% of GDP.

>> Read: Greek leftist scores victory over austerity