French Socialists inspired by Syriza victory

The French Socialist party has welcomed the election of SYRIZA in Greece. [Joanna/Flickr]

After observing the rise of the radical left in Greece with suspicion, France’s Socialists have extended a warm welcome to Alexis Tsipras following his election victory. EURACTIV France reports

Though on paper Tsipras’ Syriza may be a more natural bedfellow of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Front, it was the French Socialist Party (PS) that hailed the success of the Greek radical left as a victory for European socialism. These elections have signaled the end of the line for the traditional alliance between the PS and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).

>> Read: Greek leftist scores victory over austerity

Following a meeting of the Eurogroup on 26 January, the French Minister of Finance, Michel Sapin, applauded Syriza’s willingness to enter into a dialogue with its European partners. “This discussion would have taken place with whichever Greek government had won the election. The situation requires it so that the reforms promised by Syriza during the electoral campaign can take place – I am referring particularly to the administrative and fiscal reforms – so we can discuss solutions together; the best way to put Greece on the path towards regaining stability and economic growth,” he said.

Victory for the “left”

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, the President of the French PS, announced on Twitter that he “welcomed the victory of a left wing party”.

Cambadélis defended his party’s changing Greek allegiance in an interview with Le “Pasok was defeated in November 2011 when Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy stopped the Prime Minister Georgios Papandréou from organising a referendum on the euro. The Greek people were hurt to see their actions dictated by France and Germany. Shortly afterwards, PASOK paid the price. At the same time, Syriza moved towards the centre, accepting the euro and distancing itself from extreme policies. It was a logical step for Tsipras’ party to take the place of PASOK, campaigning on much the same issues as PASOK had in 1974,” he explained.

Philip Cordery, France’s Deputy for Benelux, the former also believes supporting Syriza is a natural move for the PS. He said the Socialist party “welcomes the victory of the left in Greece” on Sunday. This is “good news for the Greek people”.

Cordery added that “this strengthens the anti-austerity line in Europe. Since 2012, François Hollande and the social democrat leaders have been working to reorient Europe. They have found a new ally in Alexis Tsipras”.

“Much in common”

Bruno Le Roux, the President of the PS group in the French Parliament, told France Info on Monday that his party had “many things in common” with Syriza, including the objective of putting an end to austerity and mutualising debt. “Mr Tsipras’ proposals have already been implemented by the left for a long time.”

The Socialist MP for Seine-Saint-Denis has even invited Alexis Tsipras to “come and talk to the President” François Hollande. In May 2012, while the new Greek leader was on a visit to France, the French Socialists had refused to speak to him.

Commissioner Moscovici remains guarded

Pierre Moscovici, France’s European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs and a former Socialist MP, displayed little enthusiasm for Syriza before the elections. “Such a lot of work has been done by the Greek authorities, so much effort, so many things accomplished that it would be a shame not to continue,” he said in an interview with Antonis Samaras in December

>> Read: EU leaders bewildered as Greeks elect Syriza

The day after the elections, the French Commissioner said that the European Commission “completely respected the sovereign and democratic decision of the Greek people”. 

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 dark days of crisis following the results of the recent general election.

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 been showing 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.

The elections held on 25 January 2015 proved the polls right, as Alexis Tsipras, head of the extreme left party, came away with 36.5% of the vote and 149 of the 300 seats. This victory will usher in a long period of dialogue and negotiations with the other EU leaders. 

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