German line hardens after Greek referendum 'No'

German line hardens after Greek referendum 'No'

BERLIN - The German government signalled a tough line towards Greece on Monday, saying it saw no basis for new bailout negotiations and insisting it was up to Athens to move swiftly if it wanted to preserve its place in the euro zone.

With opinion towards Greece hardening in Germany's ruling coalition following the landslide rejection of European bailout terms in a Sunday referendum, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman indirectly raised the prospect of a Greek exit from the currency bloc. "Greece is a member of the euro. It is up to Greece and its government to act so that this can remain the case," Steffen Seibert told a government news conference. "It depends now on what proposals the Greek government puts on the table." Pressed on what concessions Berlin might be willing to make to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a finance ministry spokesman dismissed the idea of a debt restructuring sought by Athens and favoured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Paris later on Monday to agree a common stance towards Greece with French President Francois Hollande.

The rhetoric out of Paris, Madrid and other capitals was more conciliatory towards Greece on Monday morning, with French Finance Minister Michel Sapin saying a Greek debt writedown should not be considered taboo.

German officials acknowledge privately that Berlin and Paris have sent out conflicting signals in recent days that it is important to get the euro zone's two biggest countries back on the same page.

Seibert played down the impact of the resignation of Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose fiery declarations have alienated the Germans and many of their euro partners in recent months. He said that Greek policy positions were more important than personnel.

Merkel, who has worked hard behind the scenes to avoid a Greek exit, saying last week that "where there's a will, there's a way", finds herself boxed in following the referendum by the increasingly hard line of her conservative allies and coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the SPD, told the Tagesspiegel daily after the referendum that Tsipras had "torn down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise".

Reflecting a shift in the political mood, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has become a hate-figure in Greece for his uncompromising stance, saw his popularity at home surge to a new high last week, according to an opinion poll.

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