German frustration with Greece bubbles over in feisty Bundestag debate


One by one, leading figures in the German government made their way to the podium in the sun-drenched chamber of the Bundestag on Wednesday and accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of betraying his own people.

A day after Greece became the first advanced country to default to the International Monetary Fund, frustration in Berlin bubbled over, with politicians openly questioning whether they could negotiate in good faith with Tsipras if he survives a Greek referendum he has called for Sunday.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose tough line in aid talks with Athens has turned him into a hate-figure in Greece, had the harshest words for the Tsipras government, accusing it of dramatically worsening the situation in the country, and saying repeatedly "I feel sorry for the Greeks."

"This government has done nothing since it came into office," Schaeuble said in a speech to the lower house of parliament during a special session on the Greek crisis.

"We don't know if the Greek government is going to hold a referendum or not, whether it is for or against it. You can't in all honesty expect us to talk with them in a situation like this."

Schaeuble said any future negotiations with the Tsipras government would take place under "much more difficult conditions," bemoaning the lack of trust between the Greek government and its eurozone partners.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was more measured, describing the Greeks as a "proud people" and stressing that the door to talks remained opened.

However she also made clear that she would not negotiate with Tsipras before the referendum and signaled that any future bailout program would come under the umbrella of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), with tougher conditions, vetted by the German parliament.

"The Greeks have not fulfilled their obligations," Merkel said, referring to the missed IMF payment. She expressed concern for the Greek people who she said had "very difficult days" ahead of them.

Opposition politicians heckled members of the government before taking to the podium themselves to criticize Merkel's handling of the crisis.

Gregor Gysi of the far-left Linke, the closest German party to Tsipras's SYRIZA, accusing the government of pursuing regime change in Athens.

"You want to get rid of the leftist government in Greece, that is your goal," Gysi said, drawing jeers from coalition lawmakers.