Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos’ threat to flood Europe with immigrants, including militants who might have been fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has outraged his Northern European creditors.
Roderich Kiesewetter, the parliamentary foreign policy spokesman of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, told the Handelsblatt newspaper Kammenos’ comments were “absolute unacceptable.”
It shows the new Greek government does not hesitate to exploit the fate of refugees to enforce its own economic agenda.
Kiesewetter suggested that Greece could be expelled from the passport-free Schengen Area as a “last resort” if it continued to act “unreasonably.”
Kammenos told a conference of his Independent Greeks party on Sunday that if other Europeans “hit out” at Greece, “they should know that the migrants will get [travel] papers and go to Berlin.”
He added that if Islamic State terrorists happened to be among them, the rest of Europe would have only itself to blame.
Kammenos’ is the junior party in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ ruling coalition. The Independent Greeks are a nationalist and socially conservative party; Tsipras’ Syriza is an alliance of the far left. The two share an opposition to the bailout program Greece has been in since 2010 and won the election in January.
Reactions in Dutch and German media were unforgiving.
Germany’s liberal Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung likened Kammenos’ words to extortion and cautioned that even those who mean Greece well are running out of patience with the “crooks” ruling in Athens.
One almost gets the impression that is what Tsipras’ government is after. Then they could perpetuate the legend of Greece’s victimization and draw attention away from their ideologically-drenched incompetence.
The more conservative Die Welt was even more dismissive, calling Greece a country “on the brink of ruin” and Tsipras’ a government “unable to cope with the situation.” It argued the time had come for either Greece or Germany to leave the euro.
The Dutch conservative weekly Elsevier said the defense minister’s threat was “abject” and “unprecedented” and lamented the mistake European countries made in 2010 when they first bailed Greece out.
That mistake must not be repeated by relaxing Greece’s program for the umpteenth time if it doesn’t shore up its public finances and makes its economy viable.
If the ultimate consequence of the standoff would be Greece leaving the euro, “so be it,” the magazine said.
Solidarity cannot hold without reciprocity. If solidarity is met with threats of terror, then solidarity is done for.
Polls have shown majorities in both Germany and the Netherlands want Greece to leave the eurozone.
A column in Amsterdam’s left-wing Het Parool also lamented Greece’s ingratitude.
The countries in the eurozone have given every Greek the equivalent of two Mercedes cars. It rather seems we’ve done too much already. But instead of thanks, we get threats.
Germany and the Netherlands are the first and fifth economies of the eurozone, respectively, and have taken the hardest line in negotiations with Greece since its new government demanded debt relief and continued financial support from the rest of the Europe while reneging on the country’s previous commitments.
Since taking power, the Greek coalition has canceled the privatization of the country’s largest seaport and its public power utility. Tsipras also promises to raise the minimum wage, reinstate pension bonuses and scrap a new property tax, policy changes that would violate the terms of Greece’s existing aid package which finance ministers reluctantly agreed to extend last month. The prospect of a Greek sovereign default still looms once the money runs out this summer.