EU Commission says euro membership irrevocable, but open whether Greece can renegotiate terms



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Greece's main opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras addresses his party's Congress in Athens on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. The Congress was convened to finalize the party's candidate lists for the upcoming Jan. 25 national elections, which Syriza is favored to win. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)


Greece's main opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras addresses his party's Congress in Athens on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. The Congress was convened to finalize the party's candidate lists for the upcoming Jan. 25 national elections, which Syriza is favored to win. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)


A man man queues at an exchange office in the center of Brussels on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The euro sank to a nine-year low Monday as new doubts surfaced about Greece's commitment to the common currency bloc. European stocks mostly rose while Asian markets were mixed. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)


Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks to supporters in front of his new party Logo in Athens, on Saturday Jan. 3, 2015. Papandreou announced the formation of a new party, the Movement of Democrat Socialists, which will contest the Jan. 25 election.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)


The exchange rate of the US Dollar and the Euro, at top, is displayed in the window of a currency exchange office in Berlin, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The euro sank to a nine-year low Monday as new doubts surfaced about Greece's commitment to the common currency bloc. European stocks mostly rose while Asian markets were mixed. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)


BRUSSELS — The European Union's executive Commission said Monday that membership in the euro bloc is "irrevocable" but left it open to what extent Greece could renegotiate the terms after elections on Jan. 25.

Greece's left-wing Syriza party leads the polls ahead of the elections and is in favor of changing the conditions of the country's international bailout deal. That would likely anger the rest of the eurozone, which has given Athens the bulk of the rescue loans.

Some say a disagreement could even lead to Greece leaving the eurozone, a step that would carry huge uncertainty for the country and the currency bloc.

EU spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said Monday that if the Greek elections call for a need to reconsider the conditions of Athens' membership within the 19-country eurozone, "we will deal with that once the Greek voters have cast their verdict."

At the same time, she insisted that a full exit by Greece was not on the cards since the euro rules say "membership is irrevocable."

Syriza underscored it has no intention of pulling Greece out of the eurozone. It accuses Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of scaring the nation about the implications of a Syriza electoral win.

In Berlin, government spokesman Steffen Seibert countered reports that Germany would now be willing to accept Greece's exit from the eurozone, insisting that "since the beginning it has been the policy of the government to strengthen the eurozone including Greece."

"This has not changed," Seibert said.

Germany has warned Greece against reneging on the terms of its bailout program should Syriza come to power.

In Paris, President Francois Hollande said that whatever leaders emerge from the Jan. 25 elections, they "will have to respect the commitments made by their country."


Elena Becatoros from Athens, Kirsten Grieshaber from Berlin and Angela Charlton from Paris contributed to this article.


Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

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