February 27, 2015

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Anti-Greek sentiment is boiling over in Germany

There won't be an upset in the Bundestag today, but the political tensions over Greece are boiling over. The German newspapers were leading with comments from Wolfgang Schauble that he was gobsmacked over the latest remarks by Yanis Varoufakis, which the Germans interpreted as a threat to break the agreements that were just made. Schauble accused the Greek finance minister of straining the solidarity of his European partners. And Bild is now running an active campaign to stop any further money for Greece, encouraging readers to post Selfies with a Nein poster. Just to get a sense of what of how awful this is. The headline reads: "No! no more billions for the gready Greeks"

 

The accompanying comment, top left, says that the Greeks are liars, and that the Bundestag should say No right away. 

Schauble said the timing of Varoufakis' comments could not have been worse, just when governments try to convince their reluctant MPs to back the extension. Suddeutsche Zeitung writes that among the things that upset the Germans were the remarks that there would be relatively little in new revenues from Greek shipowners or the Greek Orthodox Church. The paper notes that it will become increasingly difficult to pursuade the CDU/CSU to approve another Greek loan programme in the summer.

Because of the large majority of the Grand Coalition, the Bundestag is expected to adopt the 4-month extension agreement, but opposition within the CDU is building up. A test vote suggested that 22 of the 311 CDU/CSU MPs will vote against the extension, while none of the SPD MPs voted against it. The most prominent dissident is Peter Ramsauer from the CSU, who will be voting against a Greek package for the first time. There is a clear sense of frustration that over the last 5 years not much has been achieved in Greece.

The extreme anti-Greek sentiment is also hitting the moderate section of the German press. Berthold Kohler of Frankfurter Allgemeine, one of Germany's most seasoned political journalists, accused the Greek government of having killed the green shoots of economic recovery last year. There is no willingness in Greece to stick to the promises that have been made. He says the German public is now no longer willing to support Greece. The danger of today's overwhelming acceptance of the Greek extension is that the Greeks may misunderstand this. 

An N24 TV poll says 43% of Germans want to end the financial help for Greece. 23% only want to extend one more time, while only 28% are open for another programme. These are the numbers that inform the future course of German politics. 

Alexis Tsipras, meanwhile, is pondering whether or not to put the extension agreement to a vote in parliament later today. While there might be many reasons to do so, especially after other EU parliaments vote on it today, the hesitation is linked to the political risk to give a platform to the internal disagreement after long deliberations on Wednesday. The governement still has time today to convince those who voted No or abstained, 30 according to Kathimerini and 18 according to Greek Reporters. An open revolt is not expected. A vote in parliament will also force New Democracy, To Potami and Pasok to vote for the bill. New Democracy MP Mitsotakis has announced already that ND will vote in favour. 

Our other stories

Today we also cover Greece and the IMF, what’s happening to the Greek economy under Syriza, lessons for Greek banks from Iceland, Spain’s big data release, and the nonsense about good deflation.

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