Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greek Leftist Reaches out, to Little Avail ; France and Germany Shun Rising Star Tsipras on Campaign Swing

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greek Leftist Reaches out, to Little Avail ; France and Germany Shun Rising Star Tsipras on Campaign Swing

Article excerpt

Alexis Tsipras, Greece's rising young political star, found himself shunned by top leaders in both France and Germany.

With less than a month before new elections in Greece, it might be expected that Alexis Tsipras would be campaigning in his own country. Instead, Tuesday found Greece's rising young political star in Berlin, the second stop of what appeared to be a decision to effectively launch his pre-election campaign abroad.

Ostensibly, Mr. Tsipras' aim was to win over the German public to his goal of keeping Greece in the euro zone, though under a radically different deal than the austerity plan agreed to in February. Coming a day after a stop in France, however, the visit was also clearly intended to show that the relatively untested 37- year-old politician could punch above his weight in the larger European arena.

Yet Mr. Tsipras found himself shunned in both countries by the leading political players, on whom Greece's future may well depend, and his trip prompted criticism from his political rivals at home and in much of the Greek media.

Both newly elected president of France, Francois Hollande, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, rebuffed Mr. Tsipras' overtures, and he was forced to be content by appearing alongside more marginal leftist colleagues in both countries.

Using the same cool-minded brinkmanship for which he has become known since his previously minor leftist party, Syriza, emerged from May 6 elections with enough votes to win a mandate to form a government, Mr. Tsipras sought to turn the tables on Europe's leadership, which he largely blames for worsening his country's economic troubles. He insisted that Europe's financial stability depended on Greece remaining a member of the common European currency.

"We reached out to all sides of the political spectrum, we did not come to blackmail anyone, we want to discuss," a relaxed Mr. Tsipras told a packed room of reporters in Berlin, speaking through a German translator.

"We wanted an exchange of ideas and we realized that those who are afraid of dialogue are not prepared to discuss, perhaps because they have a guilty conscience," he said.

Instead Mr. Tsipras wound up meeting with sympathizers, who are struggling to win support for their own leftist agendas in their countries. His host on Monday was Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate in France's presidential election, who waged a surprising campaign that managed to shake up the debate in France, but came who in only fourth.

On Tuesday, Mr. Tsipras appeared alongside the leader of Germany's Left party that has become bogged down by infighting and a lack of leadership. It was ousted from regional legislatures in as many votes over the recent weeks and the news conference was peppered with local reporters soliciting Mr. …

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