TIME Greece

Greek Elections Risk a ‘Game of Chicken’ With German and E.U. Lenders

The leader of Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, listens to a question during a televised press conference on Jan. 23, 2015 at the Zappion Hall in Athens.
The leader of Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, listens to a question during a televised press conference on Jan. 23, 2015 at the Zappion Hall in Athens. Louisa Gouliamaki—AFP/Getty Images

The likely victory of the radical left-wing Syriza party will set the stage for another confrontation over Greek debt and the future of Europe's single market

Last May, during a conference with his left-wing allies in Germany, the leader of Greece’s populist Syriza party offered a warning to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I regret that I will say it here in Berlin,” Alexis Tsipras told his comrades from the German fringe party known as Die Linke (The Left). “Merkel, who will listen to it, will be upset. But soon she will have to deal with a government of the Left in Greece.”

That message now seems prophetic. Not only is Syriza expected take the most votes in this weekend’s Greek parliamentary elections, but the core platform of its leader is set to pose a major challenge for the German Chancellor. Tsipras, the telegenic populist who, at 40, could soon become the first politician from the radical left to take power in Europe in a generation, has pledged to defy his country’s creditors, particularly Germany, by rejecting the austerity measures they have imposed on Greece as a condition for the 240-billion-euros ($278 billion) worth of bailouts it has received since 2010.

He has also asked Germany and other European donor nations to forgive a large chunk of Greece’s debt. One alternative would be for Greece to abandon the European Union’s common currency, the euro, and slam the door behind by declaring some form of bankruptcy. That prospect, known as the Greek exit, or “Grexit,” could be calamitous for the stability and long-term prosperity of the E.U. economy, in particular the German locomotive that drives it.

For one thing, it would pose the risk of a domino effect, as other debt-laden countries, notably Portugal, Spain and Italy, will start to consider bailing on the Eurozone as well, says Henning vom Stein, the head of the Brussels office for the Bertelsmann Foundation, a leading European think-tank. “It will not end at Greece,” he says. “The single market is the engine of the European Union,“ he adds, and if Greece leaves, the whole thing could start to unravel.

For Greece, however, that would also be a disaster. Abandoning the euro would isolate its economy and force it to return to its former currency, the drachma, which would then plunge in value. Even a partial default on its debt would also sever Greece’s access to more loans for years to come. “There is no scenario under which an exit would make sense for Greece,” says Henning Vöpel, a senior economist at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics. So raising the prospect of a Grexit “is not a credible threat,” he adds.

It is more like the start of a painful negotiation over what to do about the failing Greek economy. What seems clear to all sides is that something has to give. The debt burden of the Greek government is now at 177% of its GDP, the highest in Europe, while the austerity measures imposed on Greece by its European creditors have forced massive budget cuts on everything from medical care to pensions and road maintenance. More than a quarter of the population is now unemployed, and among Greek youth, the jobless rate is close to 60%.

The resulting social unrest has proven fertile ground for populist parties like Syriza, and the result will be clear in this weekend’s elections. Tsipras is already preparing for the day after. In an appeal published this month in the German daily Handelsballt, he asked the German public to help give Greece a “European New Deal” that would release the Greek people from the humiliating conditions of austerity. “Let me be frank,” he wrote, “Greece’s debt is currently unsustainable and will never be serviced, especially while Greece is being subjected to continuous fiscal water boarding.”

There have been signs that Europe is prepared to yield to some of Syriza’s demands. The one-trillion euro stimulus program that the European Central Bank (ECB) announced on Thursday could ultimately, for instance, allow the bank to buy back Greek bonds, giving the struggling economy an infusion of cash and easing its debt load. With that program, “The ECB has made this bargaining solution possible,” says Vöpel, the Hamburg economist, in an email to TIME.

But Europe’s wealthier nations are still a long way off from accepting Syriza’s core demand — a reduction in the principle value of Greek debt. At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, one of the more recalcitrant voices on this issue was Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb: “It will be very difficult for us to forgive any loans,” he said during a panel discussion. At the same time, a Grexit would be still more difficult, he added: “We need to try to avoid the dirty exit at all costs.”

The key question now is how high those costs will be for Europe. Among the more affluent European nations, the rise of Eurosceptic parties, such as the National Front in France and the UKIP in the U.K., suggests that voters are already tired of bailing out their struggling neighbors, says Vöpel. So it will be hard for Merkel and her wealthy colleagues to convince their voters that, for the sake of European prosperity and solidarity, Greece needs yet another break.

Nor will it be easy for any Greek government to stay the course of austerity without causing a major public backlash. Already violent street protests have become the norm in Athens, often calling for Greece to throw off the strictures of its bailout program and go it alone. “There is quite a serious anti-German sentiment among the Greek population,” says Eleni Panagiotarea, a research fellow at the Eliamep think tank in Athens. “They feel they have been marginalized, and they really put the blame on Germany for imposing these very strict and harsh [loan] conditions.”

The Syriza campaign has played on those feelings, painting the country’s lenders as the source of Greece’s troubles since the global financial crisis began. But after the vote, the left-wing party will still need to compromise with the very institutions it has been demonizing, and the threat of a Grexit will be a useful tool. “They’re basically playing a game of chicken,” Panagiotarea says of the Syriza party. “Their logic is that these lending institutions will blink first, because they do not want to take the blame for a Grexit.”

On that score Syriza is probably right. The winner in a game of chicken is usually the one who has less to lose, and while the Greek economy has nearly reached rock bottom, Germany, like the rest of the E.U., cannot afford to risk an unraveling of the single market on which its economic growth depends. They would sooner preserve it by appeasing at least some of Syriza’s demands, or as the Finnish Prime Minister put it in Davos, “at any cost.”

TIME health

Panathenaic Way to Fitness

Ancient Greek Gym
An ancient Greek cup with a gymnasium scene with two referees and two wrestlers G. Dagli Orti—Getty Images/DeAgostini

The Ancient Greek gymnasion was a place to perfect the body for future festivals rather than somewhere to assuage the guilt of excess

History Today logoThis post is in partnership with History Today. The article below was originally published at HistoryToday.com.

The New Year’s resolution to join a gym is nothing new. The male citizens of classical Athens (sixth to fourth centuries BC) would have thronged the city’s three public gymnasia — the Akademia (Academy), Lykeion (Lyceum) and Kinosarges (Cynosarges) — around the new year. One cannot help but feel, however, that the ancient Greeks had things much better organised than we do. For one, the Athenian New Year began on the first new moon after the summer solstice, during the month of Hekatombaion (June/July), in midsummer, not midwinter. They did not go to the gym after the event to assuage their guilt about the excesses of the preceding festive season but beforehand in order to look their best for the forthcoming celebrations.

Of the three major festivals held during Hekatombaion, the most important was the Panathenaia, marking the birthday of Athena on the 28th with a pompe (procession), in which freeborn Athenians of both sexes progressed from the Dipylon Gate along the Panathenaic Way to the Agora and thence up through the Propylaia to the Altar of Athena on the Acropolis. Freeborn male citizens and their sons would have trained even more assiduously for the quadrennial Greater Panathenaia, which included a full programme of athletic events, with the added edge that they were expected to compete in the Panathenaic Stadium, gymnos, naked.

It is not just etymology that links the ancient gymnasion with its modern successor. Like today’s gym members, freeborn Athenian men and boys went to the city’s public gymnasia to perform aesthetic training, that is, exercises that enabled them to achieve or maintain the bodily ideal that was visibly glorified in the city’s public art. And for good reason: male nudity was no mere artistic convention in classical Athens, as it would be in neoclassical London, Paris or Berlin. It was obligatory during local and Pan-Hellenic competitions, such as the Panathenaic and Olympic Games and while training at the gymnasium. It was a common sight, too, during religious festivals. To cite one sculptural example, the western section of the Parthenon frieze (most of which is now in the British Museum) shows athletic young cavalrymen, naked except for a himation rakishly carried over one arm or thrown back over the shoulders, preparing to ride out in the Greater Panathenaic pompe.

Training for sporting competition (which would now be classed as complementary or assistance exercise) and for the narcissistic pursuit of the body beautiful (aesthetic training) are two functions shared by the ancient and modern institutions. To this we can add a third: therapeutic training, because the ancient Greeks, too, understood the value of exercise in maintaining health and curing disease. But there the similarities end. A visitor to a gym built between the closing decades of the 19th century and the present day would expect to walk into an indoor hall filled with equipment. In contrast, the visitor to a Greek gymnasion would have found something more akin to an open-air athletics field set within extensive parklands, devoid of any fixed equipment, though with the addition of altars and shrines.

The only major constructions would have been the palaistra, a large courtyard enclosed by porticos, and the xystoi, the covered running tracks for use in bad weather. Instead of performing on the parallel bars or ‘pumping iron’ on free weights in figure-hugging lycra, the patrons would be seen practising running, long jump, javelin, discus, wrestling and pankration, naked but oiled, covered with a coating of protective dust and with their genitals tied in place by a leather thong know as a kynodesme (literally a ‘dog leash’; a penis was a ‘dog’ in ancient Greek slang).

The rooms housed within the porticos of the palaistra reveal the functions that a gymnasion provided its patrons. Alongside the facilities that one would expect in an athletics facility — changing rooms (apodyterion), oiling, massage and medical room (aleipthrion), bath (loutron), punch-bag room (korykion) and ballgames room (sphairisterion) — there were rooms furnished with seating (exedrai) set aside for the education of boys from the ages of seven to 14; the epheboi, the city’s military cadets, who did two years’ military service from the ages of 18 to 20; and adult men who attended lectures given by sophists and philosophers. During the classical period, in addition to being a facility dedicated to the training of the body, the Akademia served as a primary and secondary school, a military academy and mess hall and an adult education institute. As the site of shrines and altars dedicated to heroes and gods, it would also have played its part in the religious life of the city.

Informally, the gymnasion was where boys had their first sexual experiences with other boys and older men. The erastes-eromenos system of age-graded same-sex relations that was part of the citizenship and military training of Greek boys and adolescents found a natural home within the confines of the all-male gymnasion. However, I would not like to give the reader the impression that the gymnasion was home to a culture of unbridled same-sex hedonism. Although Greek men and boys were accustomed to being naked in the gym, where they freely admired each others’ bodies, they also abided by strict rules of propriety and self-restraint. The gymnasion was where boys attained manhood in the broadest sense of the term and adult men pursued arete: their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral potential. In The Laws, Plato discusses the concept of sophrosyne, the moderation of one’s desires in order to achieve full mastery of the self and true masculinity. He stresses the importance of physical training in the gym in its development and asserts that a man who is agymnastos (untrained physically, intellectually and morally) will not achieve sophrosyne and, by extension, arete. We can see in the New Year’s resolution to join a gym a modern echo of the ancient Greek pursuit of arete, as modern gym-goers strive to achieve their full human potential through the discipline of gym-based exercise.

Eric Chaline is the author of The Temple of Perfection: A History of the Gym, which will be published by Reaktion in March 2015

TIME Greece

Greek Police Detain 4 Suspected Terrorists

Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium, on Jan. 17, 2015.
Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium, on Jan. 17, 2015. Virginia Mayo—AP

One of suspects may be linked to a jihadi cell in Belgium

Greek authorities detained four terrorism suspects on Saturday, including a man believed to be the ringleader of a Belgian jihadi cell as part of an increase in European counterterrorism efforts.

The four suspects were arrested separately in Athens, an unnamed Greek police official told the Associated Press. Among them was a man who matched the description of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who Belgian authorities believe was behind the jihadist cell dismantled in Belgium on Thursday.

The man’s name and cell phone matches descriptions of Abaaoud that Greek police received from Belgium. Belgian officials are currently examining photos, fingerprints and DNA material sent from Greek police with the goal of verifying if Abaaoud is among the suspects arrested.

Popular anger against radical Islam has risen in recent days, in the aftermath of last week’s bloody attack on Paris’ satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Belgian officials said they dismantled a jihadist cell on Thursday, and the country’s military has been dispatched to safeguard sensitive locations, particularly in the country’s Jewish community.

In the magazine: The European Front


TIME Italy

98 Passengers of the Adriatic Ferry Are Still Unaccounted for

Greece Ferry Fire
In this image taken from a Dec. 28, 2014 video and made available Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014 passengers of the Italian-flagged ferry Norman Atlantic wait to be rescued after it caught fire in the Adriatic Sea. AP—AP

Authorities have no idea whether they have been killed, rescued or even boarded the vessel

Ninety-eight passengers of the Greek-operated Norman Atlantic ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea on Sunday have not been accounted for, according a justice official in the Italian port of Bari.

Associated Press reports that it is uncertain whether the missing passengers boarded the Italian-made vessel, or were killed in the disaster, or rescued.

Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe told the Italian ANSA news agency that he hoped that Greek authorities would be able to establish how many people had been rescued by various ships and brought to Greece.

Eleven people are known to have died as a result of the fire, while hundreds of survivors have been plucked from the sea. However, the total number of passengers aboard the ill-fated vessel — which was sailing from Greece to Italy when the fire broke out — has still not been established.

Greece’s merchant marine ministry has accused Italy of botching the identification of the rescued and missing. “The information forwarded to us so far by Italian authorities contains names listed twice and misspellings in the names registered,” it said.

Meanwhile, poor weather hampered efforts Wednesday to tow the ferry to Italy for an investigation and a search that could turn up more dead.

The Italian captain has been questioned by the authorities in Bari, who refuse to divulge further details pending the results of their investigations.

TIME elections

These Are the Elections to Watch Around the World in 2015

From Greece to Argentina, elections could transform the international political landscape

This past year was marked by monumental elections that ushered in new political regimes in countries like the India, and Tunisia, and solidified or extended others in places like Egypt, Brazil and Japan.

The year 2015 is shaping up to be a respite from the chaos of democracy, with the electorate of some of the world’s largest countries sitting on the sidelines. But a spate of political developments has infused global importance into elections around the world and prompted two previously unexpected votes in Greece and Israel that will have major repercussions for their respective regions.

Here’s a look at what to expect:

United States

Three of the five largest cities are electing their mayors this year. In Chicago, former Obama adviser Rahm Emanuel is running for reelection in February and holds a strong lead in polls. In Houston, the biennial vote in November will select a successor to Democratic Mayor Annise Parker, who has reached her term limit. It will be a similar situation in Philadelphia, where Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter can’t run for a third term.

Meanwhile, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are electing governors in November, including replacements for Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, both of whom have reached their term limits.


The Greek Parliament’s refusal to elect Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s choice for president earlier this week triggered snap general elections set for January 25. Opinion polls have placed the radical leftist opposition party Syriza in the lead, raising the prospect of an anti-bailout government that could move to default on its massive debt and prompt a new eurozone crisis.


A stumbling economy and a persistent Islamist insurgency in the north have drained some public support for President Goodluck Jonathan, in office since 2010, and the vote on Feb. 14 is expected to be close. Jonathan will go up against Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler campaigning on a platform of security and anti-corruption. But the biggest determinant of who becomes the leader of Africa’s biggest economy may fall along ethnic and regional lines: Buhari is a Muslim northerner, while Jonathan is a Christian from the south.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his already tenuous centrist coalition in early December and called for early general elections set for March 17, expecting to win a new mandate for himself and a more right-leaning government. But polls show that a new left-leaning coalition could beat Netanyahu’s Likud party, though the incumbent could stay in power if he successfully forms a coalition with rightist parties.


The April 13 election is all but likely to ensure that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted on genocide charges by the International Criminal Court, will extend his 25-year rule, even as violence continues between Khartoum and rebel groups in Darfur and elsewhere.


The United Kingdom is heading for what may be the closest election in a generation—and the first since a divisive vote in Scotland to remain part of the 307-year-old Union—as the Labour party seeks to unseat Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative party in elections slated for early May. The rest of the European Union will be closely watching this vote, as Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership in 2017, while Ed Milibrand, head of Labour, has rejected the idea.


President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has drawn some public support for her obstinate stance against U.S. investors and U.S. courts who are demanding Argentina repay $1.3 billion in debt plus interest. But the skirmish has scared off investors and helped put longterm economic growth largely on hold until the dispute is resolved or, as is likely, a more market friendly president takes office following elections in October. As for Fernandez, her tenure is up after reaching her two-term limit.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party has seen an uptick in support in recent days, putting it ahead of the Liberal party. But his party’s support took a hit this year and he’s far from guaranteed a win in elections in 2015, currently slated for Oct. 19. His biggest rival will likely be Justin Trudeau, head of the Liberal Party and son of long-serving Premier Pierre Trudeau.

Burkina Faso

In the wake of longtime President Blaise Compaoré’s ouster amid mass protests, the interim leadership agreed to hold new elections in November. If that plan holds, the Burkinabé people will select a government not headed by Compaoré for the first time since he seized power in 1983.


The nascent anti-establishment party Podemos has skyrocketed in popularity and is now competitive with the two stalwarts in a country still burdened by an economic crisis (unemployment stands at around 24 percent). Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the right-leaning Popular Party, is already under pressure from an empowered Catalan independence movement, and the populist movement does not augur well for him in next years elections, which must take place on or before Dec. 20. But he’s hoping that economic reforms and early indications of a recovery will boost his standing.


The vote in late 2015 could mark a significant step in Myanmar’s heralded-but-stumbling process of political reform, but that’s not certain. Though the elections will be the first since a semi-civilian government assumed power after half-a-century of military rule, the military is still highly influential and key constitutional reforms called for by the opposition are unlikely to pass ahead of the vote. Among them is a measure to repeal a law that prevents opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from running. For now, Shwe Mann, the speaker of parliament and a retired general, is the front-runner.

TIME Greece

Two Albanian Seamen Killed in Effort to Salvage Ferry

A rescue operation of the burned ferry "Norman Atlantic" adrift in the Adriatic Sea off Albania on Dec. 29, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

Ten passengers of Norman Atlantic confirmed dead

Two more people have died in the aftermath of a ferry fire that occurred in the Adriatic Sea near Greece. A pair of Albanian seamen who were attempting to salvage the multideck car ferry were killed when the cable connecting their boat to the ferry snapped and struck them Tuesday. One man died instantly while the other died while being assisited by a helicopter medical team, a port authority official told Reuters.

Ten other deaths have previously been reported due to the fire. The Italian navy has said that the ferry has been fully evacuated. However, the navy has only confirmed that 427 people have been rescued, which is well below the 478 people were estimated to be on board the ferry.


TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 29

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Objects Spotted in Hunt for Jet

An Australian aircraft has detected objects that may be related to AirAsia Flight QZ 8501, which vanished Sunday en route from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 on board. The sightings were made near Nangka island, about 700 miles from where contact was lost

What We Know About QZ 8501

In the third Malaysia-linked aviation disaster this year, an AirAsia plane traveling from Indonesia to Singapore disappeared on Sunday over the Java Sea

U.S. Ends Afghan War

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission Sunday, marking the formal — if not real — end to the longest war in American history

Greece Fears New Financial Crisis

Greek financial markets reacted negatively on Monday to news that the country’s lawmakers refused to elect a new president, triggering snap elections that may bring to power the radical left-wing Syriza party, which has threatened to default

San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh Agree to Part Ways

The San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh have “mutually agreed to part ways,” team CEO Jed York said in a statement on Sunday. York also said the 49ers have already started its search for the team’s next head coach

All Passengers Evacuated From Burning Ferry in Adriatic Sea

All passengers were evacuated off a burning Italian ferry adrift in the Adriatic Sea after the craft burst into flames on Sunday. More than 400 passengers have been safety removed from the vessel, and five passengers died

Box-Office Report: The Hobbit, Unbroken Beat Into the Woods

The two new films were neck and neck: Into the Woods made $15.1 million Christmas day, while Unbroken made $15.9 million. As it turns out, audiences were equally intrigued by the star-studded musical and the Oscar-ready drama

NYC Police Chief Defends Mayor

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said it was wrong for police to turn their backs to a video monitor outside the church where New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the funeral of officer Rafael Ramos. “I certainly don’t support that action,” said Bratton

ISIS Executes Nearly 2,000 People in 6 Months

ISIS executed 1,878 people in Syria over the past six months, including 120 of its own members, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most people killed by the Islamist group were civilians, among them 930 members of a single tribe

Ferguson Police Spokesperson Suspended

A spokesman for the Ferguson, Mo., police department has been suspended without pay after he admitted to calling a memorial for an unarmed black teenager shot to death by a white officer “a pile of trash,” the city said on Saturday

Spokesman: George H.W. Bush to Remain in Hospital

A spokesman for George H.W. Bush says the former President will remain in a Houston hospital for now but that news of a “possible discharge” could come soon. Bush was taken to the hospital on Tuesday for what was reported as a precaution

James Franco and Seth Rogen Live-Tweet The Interview

Twitter already went wild over The Interview when the controversial comedy was released online on Christmas Eve, and now, stars James Franco and Seth Rogen are joining the fray. The actors live-tweeted the film on Sunday

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TIME Greece

Here’s Why Greek Elections Are Making Europeans Feel Very Nervous

Greek Prime Minister Samaras reacts in parliament during the last round of a presidential vote in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reacts in parliament during the last round of a presidential vote in Athens on Dec. 29, 2014. Yannis Behrakis—Reuters

Parties are divided on economic plan to stop bankruptcy or to start spending money the country does not have

After five years looking into the abyss, Greece is on the verge of taking a big step forward.

In a third and final vote, the debt-laden country’s parliament refused to elect a new president, triggering snap elections that may bring to power the radical left-wing Syriza party, which has threatened to default if Greece’s creditors don’t forgive it at least some of its huge debts.

A Syriza victory would make sovereign default, which has been taboo all through the Eurozone’s debt crisis, a very real risk again. The party argues that Greece can never recover unless it gets at least some debt forgiveness, something which neither the Eurozone nor the International Monetary Fund are inclined to give.

Default, which Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has threatened if he doesn’t get his way, would likely lead to Greece exiting the Eurozone, shaking confidence in the currency union’s ability to survive. Recession in Europe and a new wave of volatility in global financial markets would be assured.

It may never happen. Although Syriza came out top in May when Greece voted in this year’s elections to the European Parliament, its lead over the ruling coalition has been narrowing in recent weeks. Two opinion polls at the weekend put its lead over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ center-right New Democracy party at 1.7% and 3.3%, down from over 5% a month ago. Samaras Monday said the new elections would take place Jan. 25.

Local media reports suggest that, while Samaras’ government is deeply unpopular because of the cuts in public spending it has made at the order of the foreign creditors, the country has little appetite for a radical new experiment just as it appears to be exiting recession after five long years (gross domestic product grew 0.7% in the third quarter and was 1.6% higher than a year ago).

A weekend poll showed around 60% of Greeks were against early elections. Against that background, Samaras has gambled that, even if parliament rejected his candidate for (the largely ceremonial post of) president, voters would punish the opposition rather than him.

“The Greek people understand where this adventure could lead,” Samaras told national TV at the weekend.

If he’s right, then the election could result in a vote of confidence for his unlikely coalition with PASOK, the party that has traditionally dominated the left of Greek politics, but which was shattered by its inept handling of the early stage of the crisis. That coalition currently holds a slim majority of 155 in the 300-seat parliament.

Either way, the signs are that Syriza, which is still polling only around 28%, would struggle to form a government on its own. There is no guarantee that it will find enough allies to build a majority of its own. Nor is there any guarantee that it would follow through on its campaign rhetoric, once faced with the responsibilities of power.

If Tsipras actually does get as far as the negotiating table at Brussels, then the threat of default could still be averted by some concessions on repaying over €200 billion of bailout loans. Throughout the crisis, Eurozone leaders have shown just enough flexibility to keep the currency union together, and with Greece now posting a budget surplus before interest payments, the Eurozone can afford some relief dressed up as a reward for good behavior.

The trouble for Tsipras is that the clubby circle of mainstream politicians that head the Eurozone would far rather reward Samaras, one of their own and a man who has finally dragged Greece along the path of reform, than some upstart firebrand who wants to play by different rules. A victory for Syriza would be the first clear embrace of a radical left-wing agenda by a Eurozone country in response to its problems, the first democratic mandate for a government to use default to escape its debts.

The redoubtable German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has faced down enough similar threats from bankrupt countries in the last five years, told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag at the weekend that “If Greece chooses a different path, things will get difficult…Every new government has to keep the agreements made by its predecessors.”

Financial market reaction suggested that investors see the news as a major negative for Greece but only moderately bad news for the rest of the Eurozone. The Athens stock market plunged 11.8% on the news but recovered by early afternoon to be down “only” 6.9%, while the yield on Greece’s three-year bonds, which would be worst hit by a tactical default, soared by over 1.2 percentage points to 11.78%.

Three years ago, bad news from any one of the Eurozone’s weak, “peripheral” economies would affect the bonds of all the others. However, the impact Monday was far more muted, a sign that markets still largely trust the European Central Bank’s promise to do “everything it takes” to keep the Eurozone together. The yield on Italy’s benchmark 10-year bond was up only 5 basis points at 2.00%, while Portugal’s rose 4 basis points to 2.75% (A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point).

This article originally appeared on fortune.com

TIME Greece

Greece Fears New Financial Crisis as Election is Called

Greek Prime Minister Samaras reacts in parliament during the last round of a presidential vote in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reacts in parliament during the last round of a presidential vote in Athens on Dec. 29, 2014. Yannis Behrakis—Reuters

European financial markets fear Greek uncertainty could unsettle the euro zone

Greek lawmakers rejected a new president for a third time on Monday, which constitutionally triggers a snap general election, Reuters reports.

The sole candidate, Stavros Dimas, failed to get the 180 out of 300 votes required and forced the government that sponsored him to seek a new mandate, probably before mid-February.

Greek financial markets reacted negatively on Monday to the prospect of political uncertainty. The Greek government is trying to cut public spending and increase taxes which has led to economic depression. These policies of austerity were required by Greece’s European Union partners as a condition for a financial bailout which staved off bankruptcy. The main opposition party Syriza, which is ahead in opinion polls, say they will reject policies of austerity and demand a re-negotiation of Greece’s agreements with the E.U. and the International Monetary Fund.

Read More: Here’s Why Greek Elections Are Making Europeans Feel Very Nervous


TIME Italy

8 Dead After Passengers Evacuated From Burning Italian Ferry

Passenger is helped as he leaves from the " Spirit of Piraeus" cargo container ship as they arrive in Bari harbour, after the car ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire in waters off Greece
A passenger is helped as he leaves from the " Spirit of Piraeus" cargo container ship as they arrive in Bari harbour, after the car ferry Norman Atlantic caught fire in waters off Greece December 29, 2014. Reuters

427 people were rescued, including 56 crew members

At least eight passengers have died after a grueling evacuation of an Italian ferry was completed Monday, more than 24 hours after the ship burst into flames Sunday in the Adriatic Sea.

Search efforts are continuing after the all survivors were evacuated by Monday afternoon, with 427 people rescued, including 56 crew members, from the Norman Atlantic ferry, the Associated Press reported.

The original ferry manifest contained 422 passengers and 56 crew members, but officials said it was too early to speculate if people were still missing, as some may have not boarded the ferry. Officials also said some survivors were not listed on the manifest, which suggests they had been traveling illegally.

Poor weather conditions and choppy seas reportedly slowed rescue efforts being carried out by Italian and Greek authorities.

“It will be a very difficult night. A night in which we hope we will be able to rescue all on board,” said Greek Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, according to the Associated Press.

Medical personnel had been dropped on to the ferry to treat passengers who were believed to be suffering from hypothermia as they waited for rescuers to evacuate the rest of the ship.

Officials last inspected the craft less than two weeks ago and six deficiencies were reportedly discovered; however, the vessel was still deemed seaworthy, according to AP.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning on the ferry’s car deck, when nearly 500 people were on board, including 422 passengers and 56 crew members.


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