Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won’t give in to ‘blackmail’ over bailout reforms

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THE INDEPENDENT – 19 FEBRUARY 2015

In a speech to his new government he said he would push forward plans to reverse bailout reforms

Greece is expected to request a six-month extension of its loan as negotiations continue over a bailout deal with the European Union.

Government officials were quoted as saying that the loan would not be an extension of the current bailout, which includes strict austerity measures. Instead the terms and conditions would be proposed by the Greek side.

These would likely include collaboration on a range of policies including clamping down on tax evasion and moving forward with privatisations.

Standing firmly on a collision course with the European Union, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged to begin reversing his country’s economic austerity measures soon.

A day after talks between Greece and its 18 eurozone partners over the extension to his government’s bailout package broke down acrimoniously in Brussels, Mr Tsipras raised the stakes by vowing to scrap labour market deregulation and improve workers’ rights almost immediately – undoing a reform that had been insisted upon by Greece’s international creditors.

Mr Tsipras accused “certain groups” within the eurozone of trying to “undermine” the Greek government and said Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble had “lost his cool”.

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Jeroan Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup finance ministers, has said Greece has until Friday to decide whether to ask for an extension of its current €240bn (£178bn) bailout package. Otherwise, Greece was warned, it would be on its own as it seeks to refinance international loans that expire later this month.

Today, Mr Tsipras reiterated comments from his finance minister that Athens had been ready to sign a joint communique on Monday until its wording was changed, 15 minutes before the meeting, in a way that had “forced us not to agree”. He said his government would not back down from its pledges to end the strict austerity measures demanded by the European Union’s Troika in return for the loans.

“For the first time some people are saying ‘no’ and they mean it,” Mr Tsipras said. “We’re looking for an honest agreement without the austerity and memorandum which destroyed Greece over the years, without the toxic presence of the Troika,” Mr Tsipras said.

Greece’s deputy foreign affairs minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who had also been present in Brussels, said: “We did our best to achieve a reasonable compromise, but we were met with raw power and blackmail.”

Earlier Mr Schäuble had renewed his verbal onslaught on Greece, insisting that Athens had to make up its mind on the issue fast. “Do they have a plan?” asked Mr Schäuble at a press conference in Brussels. “None of my colleagues so far understands what Greece wants…  Whether Greece itself knows what it wants is not clear either.”

Mr Tsipras hit back at Mr Schäuble for saying he felt sorry for the Greek people, living under a government he said was “acting irresponsibly”.

“German Finance Minister Schäuble lost his cool. Not because he spoke up against the Greek government because that is his right, but he spoke condescendingly towards the Greek people,” Mr Tsipras said.

 

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