German leaders right and left unleashed a barrage of criticism at Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday for rejecting an offer that could have unlocked rescue funds to resolve the debt crisis.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s allies and the leaders of her center-left coalition partners condemned Greece’s leftist government, reflecting pent-up public frustration.
Germany is the biggest European contributor to the bailout programs that have kept Greece afloat for the past five years. Opinion polls now show a majority of Germans want Greece to leave the eurozone.
Aside from the reform Communist Left party, which expressed support for Tsipras, German politicians used unusually strong language on Greece.
“The whole thing is just absurd,” said Volker Kauder, a Merkel ally and leader of her conservative party in parliament. He called Tsipras’s referendum idea “a trick to hold power.”
Kauder said Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis “had failed with their strategy of trying to divide Europe.”
“They are leading their country into chaos,” he said, adding the European Central Bank must now take a tough line on Greece.
Merkel has called for a meeting with the leaders of all of Germany’s major parties and parliamentary groups on Monday to discuss Greece.
Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), said he was stunned that Tsipras had slapped away the European Union’s outstretched hand.
“I’m appalled that the Greeks turned down this most accommodating offer,” he told Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It went further than anything before. Tsipras wants an offer without any conditions. Europe isn’t going to accept that.”
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also baffled.
“I don’t understand how an elected Greek government can urge its own people to reject Europe’s proposal and how it can take its own people hostage to try to squeeze more concessions from Europe,” he told Welt am Sonntag.
“The Greek government’s zig-zag course makes me speechless,” he added. “They need to take responsibility for its people and stop fueling illusions.”
Hans Michelbach, a leader in the arch conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), urged the ECB to stop extending Greece any further loans at all. “Greece is on the verge of bankruptcy,” he was quoted in German media telling his party.
Anton Hofreiter, a leader of the opposition Greens, said it would be irresponsible if Greece leaves the euro. Bernd Riexinger, co-leader of the radical Left party, said he feared Greece’s euro exit could lead to the end of the currency.