French left and far right herald Syriza victory

Both the far left and the far right in France proclaimed the victory of Alexis Tsipras and anti-austerity radical left party Syriza in the Greek elections on Sunday.

French left and far right herald Syriza victory
Jean-Luc Melenchon, Alexis Tsipras and French Communist Party National Secretary Pierre Laurent share a light moment as they take part in an anti-austerity demon in Paris. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP

France's President François Hollande also congratulated Tsipras adding that he hoped Greece would continue to support the "growth and stability" of the eurozone.

The French president recalled "the friendship that unites France and Greece and expressed his desire to Mr Tsipras to continue the close cooperation between our two countries, to support the growth and stability of the eurozone, in the spirit of progress, solidarity and responsibility that is at the heart of our shared European values," the statement said.

The Greeks on Sunday handed a clear victory to Syriza, "making history" and "leaving austerity behind" them, said Tsipras, the first European leader elected on a platform of explicitly rejecting the harsh policies imposed by the EU and its members.

Tsipras has vowed a raft of anti-austerity pledges including renegotiating the terms of Greece's €240-billion ($269 billion) bailout with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, raising the minimum wage and increasing pensions for the poorest.

Reacting to the victory Jean-Luc Melenchon, France's most prominent far-left politician described the victory for the anti-austerity party as "pure happiness".

"This is a new page for Europe. Maybe we can take the opportunity to rebuild Europe, which has become the federal Europe of the liberals,” Mélenchon told BFM TV.

“The Greeks are trying to break out of this straight jacket and thanks to them, maybe we will be able to lay out all the figures on the table, that has made life hellish in Europe.”

Members of France's ruling Socialist party, which last year saw a rebellion by several anti-austerity MPs against Hollande's own austerity policies, also congratulated Syriza.

"The victory of a party on the left is always good news for the Socialist party in France," said Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, the first secretary of the party. 

One of those rebels, former education minister Benoit Hamon, said: "The French government clearly now has to support future Greek government in its desire to end austerity and reconnect with economic and social justice, he said.

On the opposite side of France’s political spectrum, the far right were also heralding the victory of the radical-left Greek party, because it represents a blow to the EU.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the honorary leader of the National Front said the result of the Greek elections reflected a “renunciation” of Europe.

Although Le Pen’s party does not share the same ideas as Syriza, and the father of Marine believes Tsipras will “come under too much pressure to be able to keep his promises”, he welcomed “the defeat of the European Union in Athens”.

Speaking before Sunday's election Marine Le Pen had angered the French far-left by saying the National Front would welcome Syriza's victory.

"We do not agree with all of their programme, especially on their plans for immigration. But we will celebrate their victory," Le Pen said last week.

"There is a fracturing in Europe, which is seeing the people taking power against the totalitarianism of the European Union and their accomplices, the financial markets," she added.


Merkel’s Greece visit to focus on post-austerity solidarity

German Chancellor Angela Merkel headed to Greece on Thursday amid tight security to show post-austerity solidarity with Athens and lend diplomatic support on a name change for neighbouring Macedonia.

Merkel's Greece visit to focus on post-austerity solidarity
Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during his visit to Berlin in December 2016. Photo: DPA

Nearly 2,000 police have been deployed to supervise Merkel's visit and authorities have banned demonstrations around the home of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, where the two leaders are set to meet.

Relations between Greece and Germany have calmed since her previous visits in 2012 and 2014, which were overshadowed by angry anti-austerity rallies.

But small protests by leftist parties and neo-Nazi groups were expected outside the no-go zone, while a police source said the authorities had opened an inquiry into five envelopes containing “a powder of unknown origin”, which were sent to regional universities this week.

Merkel's visit is seen as a chance to leave behind a fraught period caused by tough German demands for Greek austerity accompanying EU bailouts for the country during the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

Greece, which left eight years of bailout programmes behind last year, has also been deeply affected by the European migrant crisis in recent years.  

Ahead of the trip, Merkel's spokeswoman Martina Fietz said she and far-left leader Tsipras would discuss “European and international” issues.

'Underline European solidarity'

Greek daily Kathimerini quoted Merkel as saying Greece had Germany's full support, saluting the “close ties” between the two EU states and NATO partners.

“I know that the past few years have been very difficult for many people in Greece. Europe showed its solidarity through three rescue programmes and supported Greece in its course of reforms towards fiscal and economic stability,” Kathimerini quoted her as saying, hailing the “great progress” made since.

SEE ALSO: Here's why Germany is so 'tough' on Greece over its debts

Thanos Veremis, professor of political history at the University of Athens, told AFP that just months ahead of European Parliament elections “Angela Merkel's visit will underline European solidarity with Greece, a success for Europe”.

Merkel is also due to hold talks with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday and then with New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose party is an EU Parliament ally of her Christian Democratic Union.

The leaders are likely to discuss the still thorny issue of an impending name change for Greece's neighbour Macedonia.

The former constituent part of Yugoslavia shares the name of a northern Greek province.

Tsipras and Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev have agreed in principle for Skopje to switch to “the Republic of North Macedonia”.

But Skopje lawmakers have still to vote through a move which entails four constitutional amendments and requires two thirds support in parliament.

The European Union backs a switch, which would open the door to membership in the bloc and also in NATO.

Merkel visited Skopje before last year's referendum on the change to show support.

Yet the issue remains divisive in Greece where one party in Tsipras's coalition opposes it, threatening his parliamentary majority.

New Democracy, the main opposition party, is also against the name change
and is pushing for new elections, which are officially not due before October.