The leader of Greece's socialist party says the country is pinning its hopes on the election of François Hollande in Sunday's French presidential election, with the socialist frontrunner being seen as the best guarantor of the growth policies the EU's austerity-wracked southern periphery so desperately needs.
With the Greeks also going to the polls, the socialist Pasok party leader, Evangelos Venizelos, said in an interview with the Guardian: "We are very much hoping that he [Hollande] will win. He is by far the best solution."
Support for the French socialist is the most glaring reflection yet of the growing rift in Europe over Berlin's Calvinist approach to resolving a crisis that many believe could have been contained had austerity not been so remorselessly pursued when it first broke out in Athens.
"This is undoubtedly a war, the war of our generation," said Venizelos, who was a teenager during Greece's 1967-74 military regime. "Our generation after the dictatorship never had difficulties. They were 38 very happy and prosperous years."
Vowing to end the relentless emphasis on austerity that EU powerhouse Germany has advocated in response to the continent's debt woes, Hollande told a rally in Paris on Sunday: "the people of Europe are looking to us." If elected, he promised to write to fellow eurozone governments with a call for a growth package that would focus on job creation and development.
Hollande, who last week pledged to help Greece "regain a level of development" if he beats President Nicolas Sarkozy, has promised to renegotiate the fiscal pact German chancellor Angela Merkel has made single currency nations sign up to. The treaty, the embodiment of restrictive monetary policies pursued by Germany, obliges EU member states to keep within stringent budget targets.
For countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain the relentless focus on austerity has led to historic levels of unemployment and worsening poverty. Greeks – who look set to abandon mainstream parties in droves in Sunday's elections, the first since the crisis erupted – have seen wages drop by an average of 25% over the past two years. Pensioners are forced to survive on as little as €500 a month. » | Helena Smith in Athens | Monday, April 30, 2012