European press review: ‘Everybody has begun to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible’

8 July 2015 – VoxEurop The Daily Telegraph, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Rzeczpospolita & 4 others

The day after a summit of eurozone leaders where Alexis Tsipras presented precious few new reforms and asked for a new aid plan, the European press seems to be losing patience with a crisis whose main actors appear incapable of finding a mutually beneficial way out.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that Tsipras never expected to win Sunday’s vote, with Greece is now “hurtling” towards eurozone exit. This is in no small part due to the shortsightedness of Europe’s leaders. In spite of US pressure –

The Daily Telegraph, London

15 of the 18 governments now sitting in judgment on Greece either back Germany's uncompromising stand, or are leaning towards Grexit in one form or another. [...] [In the event of Grexit] it is hard to imagine what would remain of Franco-German condominium. Washington might start to turn its back on Nato in disgust [...] a condign punishment for such loss of strategic vision in Greece.

Most in Brussels and in Berlin, writes Ulrich Schäfer, think that Varoufakis stepping down is a good thing. But despite “insulting” others, the former Greek finance minister “raised the right questions, the right subjects – but he used the wrong tone.” He raised questions about European crisis management, the sharing of social burdens, a debt write-off and the problem that a broken economy suffocates under more austerity.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich

Varoufakis is not alone among economists for what he stood for. [...] But he disregarded the fact that to succeed in politics you need majorities – not only at home, in Greece, but also in 18 other countries of the eurozone. [...] But this should allow the EU to finally have the debate started by Varoufakis – and to go some way to correcting its policies.

“An uncommon situation has occurred in Europe: everybody has started to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible”, writes Hubert Kozieł in Rzeczpospolita. As a result, top EU representatives are suggesting that “nothing terrible will happen” if the Greeks eventually leave the eurozone –

Logo – Rzeczpospolita, Warsaw

Since nearly everybody agrees that the euro without Greece is possible, then maybe after the parliamentary elections in Spain everyone will suddenly admit that euro without Spain is also possible […]. And why not throw out the troublesome Italians, too? Or the Irish accused of tax dumping? Or Portugal and France, the latter often called the sick man of Europe? Indebted Belgium or Slovenia dealing with the banking crisis’ fallout? Maybe only Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Slovakia and Luxembourg should stay in the Eurozone? Finally we would have some peace and quiet while Europe could calmly integrate.

Milan Vodička points out that the eurozone is divided into three groups regarding Greece. While Germany and Eastern Europe, which underwent painful reforms and austerity, do not have sympathy for Greeks, others are less severe and still strive to keep the country in the eurozone. Such division helps Tsipras to play his dangerous game.

Mladá Fronta DNES, Prague

It's like a game of chicken when two cars in a movie are heading towards each other and the one who gives way loses. But driver of one car is well aware that in the other car a bunch of people with a different view of the race are at the steering wheel.

Bart Eeckhout, commentator at De Morgen, calls the negotiations between the EU and Greece a poker game with high stakes. “The fact this highly risky, ‘playful’ tactic has won out over a problem solving strategy is the fault of both parties”, he writes. Although the negotiations are taking too long, Eeckhout sees one big advantage, the game is now played by “the real chiefs”:

De Morgen, Brussels

They are also playing poker with a lot at stake: the historical responsibility for breaking the unbreakable currency union. Even with all the precautionary measures taken, nobody knows how this will end. For the moment, Merkel and Hollande are too afraid to play this part. And so they should be.

The political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca argues that “the set of values governing the eurozone has deteriorated and is no longer shared by all stakeholders”:

El País, Madrid

The Greeks find themselves at one extreme, the Germans in the other and many other countries in the middle, in rejecting the principle values of the eurozone, its hierarchy and its way of resolving differences. This abandons the outcome of negotiations with the Greeks to the power of brute facts. The two parties have returned to the ugly territory of negotiations under duress. And we will not make progress if we do not find values to bring some order to our preferences. The worst case scenario? That these values emerge from pure coercion, because then there would be no possibility of a community.

“Greece’s house is in flames, but Tsipras the fireman is in no hurry” Philippe Gélie writes. “The eighteen other eurozone leaders agreed to a new extraordinary summit yesterday evening. And what did Alexis Tsipras do? Choosing again to dodge and wrong-foot his partners, he went to Brussels virtually empty-handed, Le Figaro’s columnist writes. For Gélie –

Logo – Le Figaro, Paris

Instead of signalling an end to these jokes, Angela Merkel, François Hollande and their counterparts have decided to grant Greece an extra delay. It costs them nothing except a little pride. None of them wants to play the role of the bad guy in the event of a Grexit that could begin from Sunday. It’s more surprising from Tsipras’ perspective, at least at first sight. There’s trouble brewing and he is playing for time. Strange, unless his true objective is to take Greece out of the euro. If that’s the case, he could have said it earlier...