Public Affairs Networking
01/04 – Reactions to Tsipras’ remarks regarding closer ties with Russia

European media continue to comment on discussions between Greece and the EU, which are suspended, as neither Brussels nor the IMF gave its approval for the Greek proposals. Greece’s ANT1 and Le Figaro report on European Council President Donald Tusk’s opinion, optimistically predicting that an agreement is possible by the end of April, provided that the country finally give a “detailed” and credible list of reforms. The Greek TV station also reports on EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva’s statement, stressing that the aim of the talks is to arrive at a credible and comprehensive package of reforms, and adding that the ball is essentially in the Greek authorities’ camp.

Le Soir quotes EC spokesperson Margaritis Schinas, saying that “things are moving, it is constructive, but of course, we cannot deny we would have liked to be further advanced already.” Kathimerini says that French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both highlight during their meeting in Berlin that “there is no time to waste,” while speaking about Greece’s situation. Many media, such as L’Opinion, report that a conference call of the Eurogroup working group will be held on Wednesday to take stock of the talks between Greece and the “Brussels Group” (EU, IMF, ECB).

Several newspapers, especially Germans ones, focus on the rapprochement between Athens and Moscow. Le Figaro – among others – further reports that, in an interview with Tass Russian news agency, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he bets on “a great future with Russia”, stating that a “rapprochement” between Athens and Moscow “has its roots in fraternal relationships that [the] two peoples have forged,” referring to their “common fight” against Nazi Germany. Germany takes a dim view of Greece’s double game, in reaching out Moscow to provoke Brussels, adds the French daily.

In Die Zeit’s editorial, Jochen Bittner speaks of a “poker game” between the EU and Greece. Mr Tsipras has “bad cards, but steady nerves.” If Europe does not grant further loans to Greece, Athens will turn towards other creditors, Mr Bittner notes, regarding Mr Tsipras’ expected visit to Moscow on 8 April. Mr Bittner criticises that it is no Greek “bluff” to destroy Europe’s unity during the Ukrainian conflict.

Handesblatt’s Gerd Höhler writes that the Greek PM seems willing to risk Greece’s “complete isolation” in Europe and that the Kremlin will welcome him “with open arms.” An article for Der Tagesspiegel says that Mr Tsipras’ visit to Russia is a “failed manoeuvre.” Even though “nobody” expects Russia to supply billions, the visit is a “sign”, adds the German daily. Luxemburger Wort says that Mr Tsipras’ visit on 8 April feeds speculation that he could try to get emergency loans in Moscow. But Tsipras’ rapprochement with Russia is more than a tactical move, through which he is trying to compensate for frozen EU aid and remove sanctions against the Greek economy. Corriere della Serra quotes Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP group at the European Parliament, warning that Mr Tsipras’ declaration, seeking Russia’s support, is a “very risky alternative against the interests of the Greek people.”

Meanwhile, Teresa de Sousa claims in an opinion piece for Público that the European Commission and the German government seem unaware of Greece’s pressing situation. In an interview in Diário de Notícias, EcoFin Commissioner Pierre Moscovici underlines that everyone is working day and night to reach a solution for Greece and avoid a Grexit. He however adds that Greece must also respect the agreements it made with its partnerships. Mr Moscovici further stresses that Russia is not an alternative for Greece as the country’s place is in the euro area. In an interview granted to L’Opinion, German-Greek Business Association President Jorgo Chatzimarkakis suggested a new Marshall Plan for the country as an “ideal” solution to Greece’s crisis. According to him, “the worst scenario” would be a Grexit, which would symbolise “the end of an EU respected across the world.”

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