Greece PM admits making major concessions to creditors

Athens, July 11 (IANS/EFE) The Greek government’s latest proposal to creditors includes many concessions for the sake of remaining in the Eurozone, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras acknowledged on Saturday in a speech to parliament, seeking endorsement of the package.
“I don’t want to hide the truth. The accord that will be discussed in the Eurogroup is far from our programme,” he said.

The choice Greece faces is between “what he have and what we had two weeks ago”, the premier said, alluding to the creditor blueprint his government rejected late last month.

Greece’s Eurozone partners and creditors are due to decide this weekend whether the newest submission from Athens is sufficient to keep the Greeks in Europe.

While French President François Hollande said on Friday that the proposal was “serious and credible”, the German government, which is seen as the ultimate decision-maker, declined to comment.

Tsipras addressed lawmakers two weeks to the day after he went on Greek television to say that he was turning down the plan of the troika — the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — and convening a July 5 referendum on the path forward.

To the surprise of many, more than 61 percent of those who cast ballots last Sunday voted to reject the troika proposal.

The prime minister said his leftist Syriza party urged the “no” vote to strengthen the government’s hand in the negotiations with the creditors and he asserted that the terms of Athens’ latest initiative were at least “marginally better” than those available two weeks ago.

“We must admit, on the other hand, that what they are asking of us is difficult. Better than the ultimatum, but difficult,” Tsipras said.

Greece is now seeking a three-year financing agreement that envisions capitulating to EU and ECB demands for additional austerity measures.

The June 25 proposal from the creditors called for a five-month pact.

His plan, according to Tsipras, creates “for the first time the possibility to eliminate discussion of the Grexit”.

Greece’s latest bid also includes a mechanism that would allow Athens to convert some short-term debt into longer-term obligations, which Tsipras sought to portray as a first step toward debt restructuring.

“It is possible to reach a commitment to open a real debate about the debt,” the prime minister said.

“I am sure that this seed of democracy and dignity that we contribute will bear fruit for other peoples in Europe,” Tsipras said, adding that his government’s goal is not just for Greece to stay in Europe, “but rather to live and work in Europe as equals”.

Debt restructuring must be part of any solution to the “acute” financial crisis in Greece, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said earlier this week.

Further belt-tightening and structural reforms will not be enough to solve the problem, the IMF managing director told participants in an event at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The Greek government is officially in arrears to the IMF, having missed a payment of 1.5 billion Euros ($1.7 billion) that was due on June 30.

Athens found itself unable to make the payment after failing to reach agreement with the troika on the disbursement of the remaining 15.5 billion Euros ($17.3 billion) of a second rescue package for Greece.

Syriza won election in January on a promise to throw off troika-mandated austerity that has pushed Greece’s unemployment rate above 25 percent even as the ratio of debt to gross domestic product has soared amid an economic contraction of more than 20 percent.

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