Greek drama heaps domestic pressure on Merkel

GMT 18:04 2015 Thursday ,11 June

Arab Today, arab today Greek drama heaps domestic pressure on Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Berlin - Arab Today

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces growing dissent within her conservative party over efforts to keep Greece in the eurozone after months of drawn-out, quarrelsome debt talks.

Even Merkel's long serving and loyal finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble appears to be loosing patience with Greece, and analysts have noted a recent divergence in their approaches to resolving the crisis.

If and when a deal is finally clinched, the chancellor will, despite her popularity, have to invest much political capital to keep her conservatives on side, especially if an agreement requires the German parliament's approval, analysts say.

Popular at home for her eurozone crisis leadership and her tight grip on the public purse of Germany, Europe's effective paymaster, Merkel must also worry about the consequences a "Grexit" would have for the single currency union.

She struck an upbeat note heading into yet another crunch meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras on Wednesday, saying "if there's a will, there's a way" and again stated her goal -- to keep Greece in the euro fold.

But the best the three-way Brussels meet with French President Francois Hollande could muster, at least publicly, was a declared accord that talks must, once more, be "intensified".

"The next futile Greek summit!" fumed the mass-market Bild daily which has taken a tough line with Athens since the start of the crisis, as the country has struggled to reduce its towering debt mountain and avoid defaulting.

- 'Acting in concert' -

Schaeuble, Merkel's deeply pro-European right-hand man throughout the years-long battle to fix the eurozone, has remained unwavering on the need for Athens to stick to its commitments.

Observers say his uncompromising stance now contrasts with that of Merkel, the long-time austerity champion who has increasingly engaged directly with the hard-left Tspiras in the quest for a political solution.
Faced with reporters' questions on whether a rift has developed between Schaeuble, the unbending trained lawyer, and Merkel, a pragmatic former scientist, his ministry has stressed that the two are "definitely acting in concert" on Greece.

"At the chancellery there's the idea you have to negotiate with Greece," political analyst Pawel Tokarski, of the German Institue for International and Security Affairs, told AFP.

"At the finance ministry there's increasingly less confidence of reaching an agreement," he added, saying Schaeuble's bumpy relationship with his Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis was a factor.

After four months of thorny cash-for-reforms negotiations between Athens and its creditors -- aimed at releasing the badly-needed 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) final tranche of Greece's 240-billion-euro bailout -- Merkel must also contend with a rising chorus of backbench disenchantment.

"In Europe's decisions on the rescue of Greece, big sinful regulatory breaches were committed," said Christian von Stetten, a lawmaker from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, according to Thursday's Handelsblatt business daily.

"That can't go on like that."

- 'Uncomfortable position' -

Given the overwhelming Bundestag majority of Merkel's left-right coalition, she would probably not suffer an outright defeat -- past bailouts have always sailed through.

But Merkel could face greater rebellion in the ranks than in previous ballots, as well as critical opposition from her traditionally more pro-Greece junior partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Now her direct involvement, alongside France's Hollande, in the talks which started out with telephone conferences with the anti-austerity Greek leadership, is "a political risk", Tokarski said.

"It's an uncomfortable position for her," he told AFP.
Other German lawmakers have taken to the pages of Bild to nix the idea of further aid for Greece.

"I will not and cannot approve permanent financing of a country that's unwilling to reform," Michael Frieser, of the CDU's Bavarian CSU sister party, told the newspaper.

The CDU's support base won't be content with "only a political solution which would allow Greece to evade its economic commitments", said Celine-Agathe Caro of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is close to the CDU.

Handelsblatt drew a parallel between the revolt facing Merkel and that which Tspiras faces domestically.

But even a leading SPD lawmaker, Carsten Schneider, indicated Wednesday that he foresaw the three-term chancellor, who still rides high in public opinion polls, pulling through.

"I suppose in the end the conservatives will line up behind their chancellor," he said.


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