Monday 23 October 2017

I signed deal I don't believe in, claims angry Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks to journalists of the Greek state broadcaster ERT during an interview at his office at the Maximos Mansion. Photo: Reuters
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks to journalists of the Greek state broadcaster ERT during an interview at his office at the Maximos Mansion. Photo: Reuters
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos arrives for a ruling Syriza party political committee meeting at the party's headquarters in Athens

Karolina Tagaris in Athens

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has admitted he doesn't believe in the bailout deal he signed with the Troika but vowed to implement it anyway.

Mr Tsipras defended the agreement struck at a eurozone summit, saying that although it had been "a bad night for Europe" and "imposed" on Greece, the agreement saved the country from exiting the euro.

"I am fully assuming my responsibilities, for mistakes and for oversights, and for the responsibility of signing a text that I do not believe in, but that I am obliged to implement," Mr Tsipras said last night.

He said he had fought a battle not to cut wages and pensions, adding that the fiscal adjustment agreed in the deal was milder than adjustments agreed to in the past.

Mr Tsipras, who faces strong discontent within his Syriza party over the deal, said Greece must stick to the fiscal adjustment the deal foresaw and added that he intended to serve a full four-year term, ruling out early elections.

"I won't escape these responsibilities and will try to implement my political programme over a four-year period," he said.

"The hard truth is this one-way street for Greece was imposed on us," a bitter Mr Tsipras said.

The government must pass a raft of measures through Parliament by tonight, including consumer tax increases and pension reforms, in order to start negotiations with European creditors on a third bailout worth as much as €85bn.

The deal tramples on practically all of Mr Tsipras's pre-election promises to repeal the budget austerity that European creditors have imposed for five years.

But after dragging out the rescue talks for months, Mr Tsipras was out of alternatives this week: without a deal, Greece's banks would likely have collapsed, pulling the country out of the euro, Europe's joint currency.

Mr Tsipras is expected to have the numbers in Parliament to pass the measures, since he will have the support of most opposition parties.

But the government's political survival is in danger if large numbers of its own MPs resign their seats or openly vote against the Bill.

There is some speculation Mr Tsipras might choose to reshuffle his Cabinet, which would remove dissenters from key positions.

Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, one of the hardliners in Mr Tsipras's radical left Syriza party, denounced the deal and called on the prime minister to cancel it before legislation reaches Parliament.

"The deal ... is unacceptable and does not deserve to be charged to a radical political party such as Syriza, and a battling government that promised to abolish ... austerity," Mr Lafazanis said.

Germany, he said, treated Greece "as if it was their colony and (behaved) as brutal blackmailers and 'financial assassins.'"

Defence minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the government's junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, stressed he would continue to support Mr Tsipras but described the agreement and the pressure Greece was put under at the summit as an attempt to overthrow the government.

Meanwhile, the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said Greece had tested the limits of Europe's patience and understanding and said he had been angry with Mr Tsipras over his "beautiful" but false promises to the Greek people.

Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Mr Tsipras's tactics had made it harder to secure financial support for Athens.

"You have to realise that if we'd held referendums in the other 18 countries on whether we should give more money to Greece, the result would have been much more striking and more negative than the 60pc who voted (against austerity) in Greece," said Mr Dijsselbloem.

Irish Independent

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