Public Affairs Networking
16/03 – Brussels warns against “Grexident”

Most newspapers report on Friday’s meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, EC President Juncker and EP President Schulz to discuss Greece’s financial problems, after the several clashes between Greece and Germany last week.

Les Echos says the visit of the Greek leader to Brussels was “an expression of good will”, and adds that Mr Juncker stated that he was “not satisfied with the developments in recent weeks” but added that failure was not an option, urging all parties to show more willingness to compromise. FAZ wrote this week-end that Mr Juncker and Mr Schulz demanded Mr Tsipras to write a letter to the Eurogroup, promising to engage in privatisations and improving tax collection. Mr Tsipras meanwhile underlined the immediate liquidity problems that the Greek government and the Greek economy face.

Nea Savatokyriako comments that Mr Juncker and Mr Schulz appeared to understand the gravity of the situation. In Berliner Zeitung, Peter Riesbeck comments that Jean-Claude Juncker has offered to assume a mediating role in the conflict between the EU and Mr Tsipras. Der Spiegel characterises the role of Mr Juncker as “decisive” for the Greek negotiations, adding he is Greece’s last hope to avoid the isolation from the European family. Many newspapers also comment on German Finance Minister Schäuble’s mention of a possible “Grexident”, i.e. an accidental exit of Greece from the euro area.

Eleftheros Typos reports on the tense climate between Greece and Germany due to this statement. Wolfgang Münchau warns in the FT that the odds of a Greek exit from the Eurozone have shortened dramatically in the past two weeks. In an interview with El País, European Council President Donald Tusk resorts to the past to warn against an unintended exit of Greece from the euro area, and spares no drama in describing the risks of a Grexident: “The consequences for Europe would not only be financial, but the result would write the most dramatic chapter in EU’s history. This is why we have to help Greece.” Besides, alluding to the growing war of words between Athens and Berlin, he stated that “we need to avert anything that may humiliate the other side.

Dignity and humiliation are very important in politics, not just numbers.” Les Echos also mentions how “statements made by the government in Athens on a daily basis undermine confidence” and prevent Europeans from finding a solution. In FAZ, Reinhard Müller writes that despite the euro crisis in Greece, it is important that all involved parties uphold a degree of civility and refrain from wartime rhetoric, writing that all treaties were decided on by member states working together and that they have the responsibility not to revive old grievances.

Les Echos meanwhile also says that in spite of Grexident allusions, Alexis Tsipras optimistically said that Greece was doing its part and that a solution would be found, in Europe’s best interest. Eleftheros Typos reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is allegedly willing to make significant concessions to Greece for geopolitical reasons, since a Greek exit from the euro area would fully destabilise the Balkans, expanding Russia’s scope of influence.

Several newspapers mention Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici meanwhile warned that a disorderly Greek exit from the Eurozone would be the “beginning of the end” for the currency union and prompt a domino effect of market contagion across the continent; seeking to soothe talk of an “accidental” Grexit, Mr Moscovici said any move to eject Greece from the bloc “would be a catastrophe for the Greek economy, but also for the Eurozone as a whole”.

In an interview with Real News, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen noted that the euro area can stand a Grexit, but he will do everything to prevent this scenario. Dutch newspapers however write that a Grexit cannot be excluded any longer, quoting EC 1st Vice-President Frans Timmermans saying that “this may be the ultimate consequence of the attitude of the Greek government.”

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