Greece’s defense minister threatened on Sunday to flood Germany with immigrants if his government doesn’t get its way.
“If they hit out at Greece then they should know that the migrants will get [travel] papers and go to Berlin,” Panos Kammenos told a conference of the Independent Greeks he leads.
He added that if Islamic State terrorists happened to be among those immigrants, the rest of Europe would have only itself to blame.
As a member of Europe’s passport-free Schengen Area, Greece is responsible for controlling the border with Turkey. Despite a border fence, internment camps and assistance from the European border control agency Frontex, understaffing at the Greek side and Turkey’s refusal to help contain the flow of people makes it possible for immigrants to cross illegally.
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.
In exchange for €240 billion in financial support from other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece has had to cut public spending and liberalize its economy.
The Independent Greeks campaigned against the reforms in the January election.
Immediately after taking power, the parties canceled the privatization of Greece’s largest seaport and its public power utility. Tsipras also promised to raise the minimum wage, reinstate pension bonuses and scrap a new property tax, changes that would violate the terms of Greece’s existing aid package.
Other European countries agreed to extend Greece’s bailout last month but the prospect of a sovereign default still looms once the money runs out. Northern European leaders have rejected the new government’s demands for debt relief or a conditions-free third bailout.
Before a short-term deal was reached in February, Kammenos had warned that in case Germany stayed “rigid” and insisted on “blowing Europe apart,” Greece would get funding from another source.
It could the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.
Like Syriza, the Independent Greeks are sympathetic to Russia. They defended President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014 and regard him as something of a bulwark for traditional family values against encroaching liberal influences from the West.
Like Syriza, the Independent Greeks also seem oblivious to public sentiment in European paymaster Germany where an ARD-Deutschlandtrend poll earlier this year found 68 percent of voters against another reduction in Greece’s debt.
Greece previously restructured its privately-held debt in 2012. 90 percent of its debt is now owed to official creditors, mainly other eurozone governments.
Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki further points out that given recent Islamist terror attacks in Denmark and France and the sensitive debate about immigration and Islam in Germany, Kammenos’ threats “will not exactly make it easier for Berlin to sell ‘European solidarity’ to increasingly skeptical German voters.”
Tsipras has also irritated the Germans with an improbable demand for World War II reparations.
Nazi Germany and its ally, Italy, occupied Greece between 1941 and 1944. Germany insists all claims from that period were wrapped up 25 years ago when the former Allied powers renounced the rights they held in Germany in a treaty.
Tsipras had made no similar demands for reparations from his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, who last month promised him the “strongest possible support” in negotiations.
For now, most Greeks appear to agree with Kammenos and Tsipras that Germany and the rest of Europe will ultimately cave in. A GPO survey conducted before the last election showed more than half of Greeks saying other eurozone governments would give in to their demands for debt relief.