Damage control Merkel Missteps Over Greece

Faced with growing hostility to Athens at home, and a defiant “no” vote in Greece, Chancellor Merkel faces the greatest challenge of her chancellorship.
  • Siobhan Dowling
Angela Merkel

On Monday night Angela Merkel flies to Paris for talks with French president Francois Hollande, attempting to keep both the euro zone and her own reputation intact.

Ms. Merkel and her combative finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble undoubtedly share some of the blame for the fact that Greece is in crisis.

Euro zone leaders are now scrambling to find a response to the Greek vehement “no” in the referendum on Sunday.  Ms. Merkel’s tactic last week, not to speak with the Greek government until after the vote, was obviously a hope that a “yes” would rid them of the troublesome Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and his radical Syriza party for good, looks like a mistake.

The Greek people decided instead to exercise their vote on Sunday, by rejecting their bailout conditions by a resounding 61.3 percent.

Ms. Merkel appears to have been banking on the assumption that the Greeks, cowed by capital controls and the risk of a Grexit, would vote “yes” and their radical left prime minister would be forced to resign.

But it looks as if the chancellor, frequently described as the most powerful politician in Europe, has uncharacteristically miscalculated. Now she has to balance the danger to the euro zone if Greece does go, with the very hostile feelings both within the German public and her own party to making concessions to Athens.

The Greeks, whether just more angry than scared, or persuaded by the Syriza line that a no would strengthen their hand, have not played ball.

To read more, go to Handelsblatt Global Edition.


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