Public Affairs Networking
18/03 – Greece continues to dominate the EU Press

“The ‘men in black’ of Brussels at Greece’s side,” reads Le Monde. The French newspaper reports in that sense that technocrats of the “task force” for Greece are busying themselves in Athens to give advice to the new government on how to finance and apply the reforms demanded by its creditors. These “men in black” from France, the Netherlands and Germany are viewed as the “good cops” as opposed to the troika’s “bad cops,” and their help is mostly technical, as opposed to the troika’s role of checking or even imposing conditions, adds the daily.

The FT leader’s author argues that the long-term damage that would be done to Europe by a Grexit would be severe and that “insouciance” about the prospect of Greece leaving the euro area is “a mistake”. The British daily features an article written by Greek Deputy PM Yannis Dragasakis, entitled “All we ask is that Europe give Greece a chance”. The Daily Telegraph reports that Alex Brazier – the Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability, strategy and risk – said that Greece will never be able to get rid of its debt mountain, since the “political pain” that would accompany this is politically untenable.

On the Grexit issue, all Greek media – including Kathimerini and Alithia – extensively report on Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s statement, suggesting capital controls and bank closures as a solution to prevent Greece from leaving the euro area. As a strong reaction, Greek government spokesperson Gabriel Sakellaridis called on Mr Dijsselbloem to respect his institutional position in the euro area, indirectly accusing him of blackmailing Greece, further says Kathimerini.

In an interview with Der Standard, German economist Michael Hüther considers that a Grexit would be bearable for the euro area but dramatic for Greece. In a more optimistic tone, chief economist at entrepreneur platform VKW, Geert Janssens, underlines in De Morgen that even though Greece is heading for bankruptcy again, its geopolitical importance may prevent the country from being tossed aside.

Regarding differences between Germany and Greece, Stephan-Andreas Casdorff writes in Tagesspiegel that both countries must change their approach to dealing with each other. He considers that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras must reign in his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and that Wolfgang Schäuble must change his sometimes caustic and patronising rhetoric towards Athens. He believes as well that Germany should acknowledge Syriza´s “unprecedented bravery” in taking on the old Greek elite. Mr Casdorff adds that Angela Merkel needs to make peace with Greece for Europe´s sake.

In a commentary for Focus.de, Martina Fietz offers a scathing criticism of Mr Varoufakis, by calling him a “gunslinger in a bad western” and compares the Greek government to a bandit posse who “enters a town and shoots anything that moves without a thought for what comes next.” On other German-Greek issues, WSJE reports on the meeting planned in in Berlin on March 23, between Mr Tsipras and Ms Merkel. Talks are expected to focus on Greece’s looming cash crunch even as bilateral tensions remain high. The US newspaper adds that, in the meantime, technical experts from the Greek side and the creditors will continue talks in Brussels on Wednesday as diplomats prepare for an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday.

Along the same lines, several media – including Publico, El Mundo, Tg2, Financieele Dagblad and Kathimerini – say that Mr Tsipras has asked for an urgent meeting with Ms Merkel, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, ECB President Mario Draghi and French President Francois Hollande, on the sidelines of the European Council. Kathimerini says that, with this meeting, the Greek government seeks the direct provision of liquidity between €3 billion and €5 billion in order to deal with the economic asphyxiation that it is currently facing.

Capital.gr reports that, in a statement with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Head of the EC Representation in Greece Panos Carvounis rejected publications according to which Brussels is “freezing” the access of Greece to the ESPA funds worth €25 billion. Meanwhile, a few media – such as L’Opinion and WDR 5 programme – report on Athens’ repeated requests to Berlin for war reparations. In the German programme, Marita Knipper considers that Mr Tsipras´ government is making a mistake with this request. She stresses that the Greek government is more interested in blackmailing its European partners and that nothing will change until it accepts its own responsibility for the current state of affairs. ©europeanunion2015

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