The eurodrama is over – for now

On 25 March the eurozone heads of state finally assented to bail out Greece, putting an end to the international psychodrama that had been wearing on for months. And yet the rescue package is far from ideal, with plenty of strings attached, and the wound that has opened up inside the Union will take time to heal, recaps the European press.

Published on 26 March 2010 at 16:02
Nicolas Sarkozy, José Luis Zapatero, Georges Papandréou and Angela Merkel after the European Council, 25 March 2010, Brussels (AFP)

"We have arrived at the epilogue to the long winter that kept governments, markets, central bankers, diplomats and economists on tenterhooks as they grappled with the spectre of a hitherto inconceivable event: the first-ever bankruptcy of a whole state in Euroland, the Greek default," writes Il Sole 24 Ore. “In the end, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, as back in the days of a more ambitious and less divided Europe, put the Franco-German seal of approval” to a deal clinched on 25 March on the sidelines of the European Council meeting in Brussels.

The rescue package to help Greece douse its national debt “will take the form of bilateral loans coordinated by the Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB), in addition to 'substantial financing’ from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)", explains Libération. "The IMF will contribute the smaller share of the funds,” the Parisian daily points out, “but – and this is where one has to wonder whether the plan is really in earnest – it is agreed that this aid package will only be a ‘last resort’, i.e. if Greece is really in danger of defaulting.” “Even those who would have preferred a European solution, like Spain, for instance, admit that involving an international organisation is positive," remarks El Mundo, adding that "the deal is a vital safety net for Athens, even if there are plenty of strings attached”.

Expected Europe to help refinance on the cheap

And yet Libération wonders whether this isn’t “just window-dressing designed to conceal a deep and enduring rift between France and Germany”. "Berlin, in veiled terms, is worried about the French penchant for stimulating domestic growth by boosting consumption and public spending,” notes the conservative French daily Le Figaro, pointing out that, "conversely, Paris has come out openly against a German model based on saving and exports that ends up increasing its neighbours’ deficits.”

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“This looks to be a bitter pill” for Greek prime minister George Papandreou adds Le Figaro: "He was expecting Europe to help him refinance on the cheap. Athens now has to come up with €15 billion by the beginning of May and €50 billion by the end of the year. The terms laid down by Angela Merkel make the EU/IMF package a very off-putting offer.”

They haven’t punished the crooks

On the German side, after weeks of closed ranks behind Angela Merkel, the press (of every political hue) has U-turned on her: while Spiegel Online asks whether " the iron chancellor" has actually done Germany a service or seriously marred its image in Europe, Handelsblatt headlines with "the chancellor’s bitter victory", seeing as she had to “break a lot of dishes” in the process. But “she’ll get hers”, predicts the business daily, doubting that Berlin will be able to muster a majority in favour of a German ECB presidency or a treaty to set up a European Monetary Fund.

The deal is also panned in Poland by Rzceczpospolita: "Europeans have taken the same controversial decision Washington did two years ago: to bail out the crooks. The decision is controversial because it will make it even harder for them to rein in government deficits, and they haven’t punished the crooks." Down in Romania, Gândul feels "there doesn’t really seem to be any such thing as European solidarity”, citing a recent opinion poll carried out in Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Italy which found that "58% of the Europeans surveyed were opposed to the idea of financially aiding Greece in the name of ‘European solidarity’”.

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