BRUSSELS — Alexis Tsipras, Greece's new prime minister, is a firebrand who wants fellow eurozone nations to forgive some of his country's bailout loans, something many European leaders vehemently rule out. But concerns about a disastrous confrontation — in which, say, Greece stops repaying its loans or the eurozone stops funding Athens — eased Monday after both sides said they were open to negotiations.
The election of Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party was accompanied by much hand-wringing in European capitals. Besides calling for the cancellation of some of Greece's rescue loans, Tsipras has pledged to undo some of the spending cuts and tax hikes eurozone countries required in exchange for the loans.
Politicians and investors worried that a tough stance on either side could lead the country to stop using the euro, which many say would devastate Greece's economy and destabilize the currency union.
Discussions on Greece's debt have yet to start — and could yet turn sour — but the rhetoric on Monday was about compromise, not ultimatums. Financial markets retained their poise.
''It won't give quite the fireworks that some people were expecting,'' said Professor Hendrik Vos of the University of Ghent. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union's executive commission, agreed: ''I am not excessively nervous about this.''
That may be an attempt to calm things before Greece's new government enters negotiations with its eurozone counterparts. But at the very least, Tsipras' election is likely to give new momentum to policy makers who want the region to focus less on debt reduction, as Germany has insisted on for years, and more on spending to get growth going.
The recognition that more needs to be done to encourage growth was highlighted by the European Central Bank's announcement last week that it would start buying 1.1 trillion euros in bonds to stimulate the economy. The European Commission earlier launched a 315 billion euro investment plan.
Greece has since 2010 needed 240 billion euros ($270 billion) in loans from other countries and the International Monetary Fund to avoid bankruptcy. The loans came with strict conditions that Greece cut its debts sharply. It cut spending and raised taxes — with the side-effect of hurting growth. Greece suffered an economic depression and a surge in unemployment to above 25 percent.
Riding popular discontent, Tsipras rode to power on a promise to undo some of the painful policies. Despite the tough rhetoric, both Syriza officials and eurozone leaders say they are willing to be flexible.
''France will be at Greece's side,'' said that nation's president, Francois Hollande.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who chairs eurozone finance ministers' meetings, said that even though ''there is very little support for debt write-offs,'' there is room to consider ways to make Greece's debt more sustainable.
His views were echoed by the leaders of Belgium and Finland, a country that has long been among the most unmovable on austerity issues.
Germany, however, was noncommittal beyond stressing that Greece needs to honor its commitments.
Yanis Varoufakis, a Syriza member who may become the next finance minister, sought to downplay concerns the new government would be aggressive in negotiations. He said the government would seek to convince its euro partners that reducing Greece's debt burden by linking repayments to growth, say, would be positive for all sides.
Currently, Greece has to repay its loans whatever the state of its economy. At over 170 percent of GDP, Greece's debt is way beyond levels most economists consider manageable.
He also dismissed suggestions that Syriza would threaten to pull Greece out of the euro, so-called Grexit.
''We, who happen to be in the eurozone, must be very careful not to toy with loose and fast talk about Grexit or fragmentation,'' he told BBC radio. ''Grexit is not on the cards; we are not going to Brussels and to Frankfurt and to Berlin in confrontational style..''
The main stock market in Athens recovered much of its sharp losses Monday to close down 3.2 percent. European stocks largely closed higher, and the euro clambered up from 11-year lows.