Government dismisses newspaper report accusing Minister of conflict of interest. Opposition asked for his resignation.
Athens.- ANA, Reuters
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ held late on Saturday successive meetings with Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and later Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou, as the process of drafting a list of reforms that could help unlock further bailout funding for Greece has started.
On Thursday, key European Union officials demanded from Alexis Tsipras to swift action, as money is running low. According to a German newspaper, Greek government’s fund will last until April 8.
Tsipras also met with the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dimitris Papadimoulis, who described their discussion useful and constructive. Papadimoulis said deputies were briefed and exchanged views on several issues and noted Tsipras’ initiative is bearing fruit.
He also said it is particularly important that the government enjoys the trust of a large majority of the Greek people.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is heading for Berlin on Monday to meet with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, amid fraying relations over Greece’s planned overhauls and increasingly vocal demands from Athens about wartime reparations. The German Chancellor told reporters on Friday that the meeting will focus on the bilateral relations. In preparation of the meeting, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias went to Berlin on Sunday, to meet with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. According to a Greek Foreign Ministry statement, the subject of the meeting will be bilateral relations and issues of European and regional interest.
German Chancellor was adamant on the need for Greek government to prepare a very precise list of reforms. According to Greek government sources, it is expected that the proposals will focus on fiscal, reform, privatization, social security and labor measures. While they may deviate from the reforms being discussed by the previous government, Greece will still have to ensure that it produces a primary surplus this year. Following the end of the EU leaders’ summit Friday, Tsipras suggested that the figure could reach 1 to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product.
Tsipras insisted that his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and European Council supremo Donald Tusk had resulted in an agreement that Greece does not have to complete the bailout program and review that the previous government was not able to.
“We will submit our reform proposals after working on them together with our lenders, first to the Brussels Group and then the Eurogroup,” said Tsipras. “Then we will have a steady disbursement of funds.”
The Greek prime minister insisted that none of the measures would be “recessionary.” Merkel, however, appeared to give a different interpretation of what is expected from Greece, suggesting that the basis for the reform program should be the most recent troika review, which took place on December 10.
“The Greek government has the possibility of replacing individual reforms outstanding from December 10 with other reforms if these… have the same effect,” she told reporters, adding that Ireland had done something similar.
Neither leader gave a specific timetable for when the reforms list would be ready. However, there is a possibility that an extraordinary Eurogroup could be held as early as Friday if Athens has managed to submit its proposals.
Greece must cooperate with international creditors and boost confidence among its euro zone partners about economic reforms, Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said in a radio interview, adding a lack of trust was a major problem.
If Athens does not step up efforts to honor terms of its current bailout package, it will find few allies in Europe should it need a third rescue, he added in an interview with Austrian ORF radio aired on Saturday.
He was speaking after European Union leaders welcomed a pledge from Greece to meet demands for a broad package of economic reform proposals within days to unlock the cash Athens needs to avoid crashing out of the euro zone.
Schelling, a conservative who has consistently taken a hard line with Athens, dismissed suggestions it was Greece versus Germany in the current debate. All euro zone members insist Greece respects the rules to let more money flow, he said.
“We have two problems at the moment. One is (a) problem of trust with Greece, because when we decide something it is something else again the next day,” he said.
“The second problem is we are not getting facts and figures and it is very difficult to decide on (the basis of) nothing.”
National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos expressed on Saturday his satisfaction with the result of the EU summit meeting, saying the prime minister held an “honourable and just stance”.
“The prime minister, the government and the Greek people proved that when you claim what is just, you can converse with everyone. The Greek government and the prime minister held an honourable and jus stance, asking to be allowed to implement the mandate we received in the elections of January 25,” Kammenos said answering a question while on a visit to Kalavryta in the northern Peloponnese.
“I’m especially happy that the result of these negotiations is positive and that our partners understood that a country cannot be ruled by a government that translates draft bills sent to it, but by implementing people’s mandate,” he added, noting that the decision to implement the February 20 agreement is very important, not just for Greece but for Europe.
The two billion euros which will be gradually given to Greece through EU funds have nothing to do with the funds the previous government allegedly claimed for the country, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said on Saturday.
“The main opposition is confused. Not only it doesn’t know what is happening, it is also doesn’t know who is announcing what,” Sakellaridis said in a statement.
“The two billion euros secured by the government have nothing to do with the previous government. The funds earmarked to tackle the humanitarian crisis and youth unemployment were announced for the first time by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker himself, not the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras,” he noted.
“Furthermore, this money is not related with the programme for the period 2014-2020 to which Mr. Karagounis is referring to. Therefore, the 2 billion euros have nothing to do with the previous government,” he said.
“If they cannot enjoy the successes of the government at least they can try not to embarrass themselves,” he added.