Athens.- ANA-MPA, Reuters
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned international lenders on Saturday not to heap new burdens on his country but said he believed the drawn-out bailout review with them would end well. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however, said the deal was “on shaky ground” because the International Monetary Fund had not decided what role it would play.
The comments came a day after Greece and its international lenders made clear progress towards bridging differences over Athens’s fiscal path in coming years, moving closer to a deal that would secure new loan disbursements and save the country from default.
Referring to the negotiations with Greece’s lenders, the Greek prime minister said
“(The review) will be completed, and it will be completed positively, without concessions in matters of principle.”
Tsipras told a meeting of his leftist Syriza party on Saturday that “We respect those agreed and our partners should also honour the agreements. The second review will conclude and it will conclude positively. “On our part we reiterate clearly and with determination that we will not accept any more games against the Greek people. Those who speak of a two-speed eurozone should know that they are playing with fire” he noted
He also had a message for Germany’s Finance Minister:
“I kindly ask Chancellor Merkel to discourage Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble from his continuous aggressiveness against Greece and from his insulting references. The elections campaign in a country should not have affect the life in another country”, stated Tsipras.
But further cutbacks, particularly to pensions which have already gone through 11 cuts since the start of the Greek debt crisis in 2010, would be hard to swallow.
“We are ready to discuss anything within the framework of the (bailout) agreement and within reason, but not things beyond the framework of the agreement and beyond reason,” Tsipras said. “We will not discuss demands which are not backed up by logic and by numbers.”
He warned all sides to “be more careful towards a country that has been pillaged and people who have made, and are continuing to make, so many sacrifices in the name of Europe”.
Accepting more reforms is fraught with difficulties in Greece which has only just emerged from a multi-year recession brought on by the debt crisis and the austerity demanded in exchange for the bailouts.
Juncker, in an interview to be aired on German radio Deutschlandfunk on Sunday, praised Greece for some of the steps it has already taken.
“No country has managed bigger steps to improve competitiveness than Greece,” he said.
But the Commission president also said that the bailout programme, Greece’s third, could fall apart as the IMF has not yet made up its mind whether to take part in providing more aid.
“Yes, it is on a shaky ground in the sense that we don’t see how the International Monetary Fund could manage this problem,” he said.
The IMF has sat on the sidelines of the latest bailout programme and says it cannot participate in a programme which could keep Greece in a never-ending cycle of indebtedness that could push national borrowing to 275 percent of economic output by 2060.
Tsipras also accused the IMF, with which Greece has had testy relations since its first bailout in 2010, of being “cowardly,” and of coming up with “new demands for Greece”.
“Absurd, imaginary unreal, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is made to look like Greece is to blame,” he said.
A Greek government’s top official estimated that German Chancellor Merkel at some point will intervene because she would not want to go to elections with the Greek issue pending.
Meanwhile Defence Minister and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos estimated that the second review will conclude without additional measures before February 20, in an interview with the Saturday edition of Efimerida ton Syntakton. He also said that the agreements with SYRIZA are honoured.
ANEL leader ruled out the possibility of a future cooperation with main opposition New Democracy (ND) that follows its former leader Antonis Samaras’ model and has accepted neonazis in the party. I would never cooperate with this monster, said Kammenos.
Greece and its creditors made “substantial progress” on the state of play over Greece’s second program review and the two sides are close to agreeing on the conditions that will allow the return of the mission chiefs in Athens next week, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday.
“We made substantial progress today and are close to common ground for the mission to return to Athens the coming week,” Dijsselbloem said after the high-level talks held between Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Alternate Finance Minister George Chouliarakis and representatives of the country’s creditors.
“There is clear understanding that timely finalization of the second review is in everybody’s interest,” he added, noting that any new progress will be discussed at the next Eurogroup on March 20.
Greece’s economic problems is a European problem and will be resolved by European states, European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said in an interview on Friday, adding he does not see a reason why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be involved in the Greek program.
“I don’t understand why, on the EU level, one insists on the IMF being on board. This would just be an additional complication which doesn’t contribute anything to […] the solution of the problem,” Nowotny was quoted as telling Austrian newspaper Der Standard.
“There is neither an economic, nor a political reason for this. Greece is a European problem and Europe will solve it,” he added while he expressed concern that politicians are consciously causing a crisis scenario whose solution is uncertain, as “we don’t know about the role of the IMF under the influence of Trump’s United States.”