The celebratory mood in Brussels after the long Christmas and New Year holidays has suddenly turned into an atmosphere of nervousness and despondency with the resurfacing of the so-called 'Grexit' crisis on the front pages of the European newspapers.
The whole discussion about a possible exit of Greece from the euro zone has once again emerged after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy party has led a coalition government since 2012, failed to get parliamentary backing for a new President. He announced snap general elections to be held on 25 January. Polls show that the leftist alliance Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras would emerge victorious in the elections. Tsipras wants to restructure his nation's debt and end what he calls the "unreasonable and catastrophic" austerity policies. The prospects of his victory have reignited the threat of Greece's exit from the euro area.
Samaras has warned that Greece would be driven into default and out of the Euro zone by the policies of Syriza.
Greece faced an economic collapse and an exit from the euro zone in the aftermath of the financial and debt crisis that hit Europe in 2009. The EU and the International Monetary Fund agreed to bail out Greece with programmes worth 240 billion euro, but under the condition of unpopular reforms and strict austerity measures. The official EU position is non-interference in the election process of any EU member state, but statements alluded to European policy makers and articles in the European press point to attempts to influence the Greek voters. A report in the German magazine Der Spiegel, citing sources close to the German government, said Berlin believes that a Greek exit is "almost inevitable" if Syriza wins in the forthcoming elections.
The German newspaper Die Welt noted this is an admission that the bailout policy has failed.
"The threats from Berlin are an admission of failure. They show that the EU's bailout policy has not worked in the case of Greece," it commented.
The Polish magazine Newsweek Polska said that if Syriza party forms the next government this could trigger the return of the crisis in the EU.
If Syriza comes to power the government will try to renegotiate the bailout packages, it noted and warned that if the Greeks can't reach an agreement with the international lenders the financial aid they receive may be cut off. "That would effectively mean bankruptcy for the country and ultimately its exit from the Euro zone. And that in turn would provoke a crisis in the Euro zone," wrote the Polish magazine.
The political crisis in Greece could quickly turn into a threat for the EU, warned former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.
"The election result in Athens could fuel panic in financial markets, causing a crisis that would threaten to spill over into Italy, the Euro zone's third-largest economy, and, with some delay, France, the second largest," he said in an article published in the Spanish paper EL Pais.
On their part, the Greens in the European Parliament expressed strong opposition to any "meddling" in the Greek elections.
"European governments and the EU institutions must respect the democratic process in Greece," said Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/EFA group.
The leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, took a firm stance against the idea that Greece could leave the Euro zone.
"The idea that Greece would leave the Euro zone is nonsense for three reasons," said the former Belgian Prime Minister.
"Firstly, polls show that 74 percent of the Greeks do not want to leave the Euro zone. Secondly, the Treaties do not allow Greece to leave the Euro zone while staying Member of the EU. And thirdly, it would cost the European taxpayers billions of euros if Greece were to reintroduce the Drachma," he said in a press statement.
Meanwhile, in Greece the announcement by the former Prime Minister George Papandreou on the formation of a new political party called the Democratic Socialists will lead to more turbulence on the political landscape of the country.
Papandreou is a former leader of the socialist PASOK party which was founded by his father Andreas Papandreou.
The Greek daily Kathimerini in an article summed up the current mood in the country.
"It is impossible to know what the average Greek expects of the January 25 snap election and how he or she will act at the ballot box," it commented.