EU support for Spain fuels Greek hopes for a better deal

Two days after Spain was extended a 100-billion-euro bailout for its banks, the leaders of Greece’s main political parties appeared to interpret the development as a sign that Athens will be cut some slack in renegotiating the terms of the country’s bailout with its international creditors.

A spokesman for the leftist SYRIZA, which has called for a rejection of the loan deal signed by the previous government in February, claimed that the support extended to Spain was proof that austerity in Europe has failed. “Developments in Spain fully vindicate us in our reading of the crisis: This is a deep structural crisis of the eurozone itself,” spokesman Panos Skourletis said, adding that the developments in Europe open new perspectives for Greece and the eurozone.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose party was close to SYRIZA in the last opinion polls, suggested that Athens should seek to negotiate with Europe rather than clashing with it -- a clear dig at SYRIZA.

“Just think, at a time when a country like Spain negotiates, some argue that we have to clash with Europe,” Samaras said.

The leader of socialist PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos, said the Spanish deal showed European leaders were preparing for the possibility of a Greek euro exit that could occur if the anti-bailout leftists come to power.

“They are preparing a firewall to deal with whatever happens in Greece,” said Venizelos, the former finance minister who negotiated the country’s debt deal with creditors and saw his party’s popularity plummet as a result.

Venizelos, who met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome on Monday, said there was support for his proposal for revising the terms of Greece’s debt deal “as long as Greece has a comprehensive plan, social consensus, political unity and is willing and capable to push through wide-ranging reforms.”

Monti, for his part, said it was important that Greek politicians strive to form a government by June 28 ahead of the next scheduled EU leaders’ summit on June 28 and 29. The Italian technocrat premier also expressed support for Venizelos’s proposal for a broad unity government.

In a related development, a report by Reuters published on Monday suggested that European finance officials have discussed limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing eurozone capital controls as a worst-case scenario should Athens decide to leave the euro. 

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