French President Francois Hollande, left, welcomes Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and French President Francois Hollande agreed on Wednesday that Athens must fulfill its obligations and conclude the first review of Greece’s rescue package as quickly as possible – by next week if possible.
The two men met in Paris in a bid by Tsipras to enlist France’s help to break the deadlock with the country’s creditors and conclude negotiations on the review of Greece’s third bailout which were suspended on Tuesday until next week.
Government sources said that there was “a complete understanding of the Greek positions” and a common outlook on the course of the Greek economy.
“The deal should have been closed by now,” Tsipras reportedly told Hollande and blamed disagreements between Greece’s quartet of creditors for the lack of progress.
“Any delay is costly to the Greek economy and creates instability in Europe,” he said.
Tsipras’s Paris visit follows the announcement by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos of government plans to table draft bills in Parliament on tax and pension reforms next week, without the prior approval of its creditors.
Tsipras told the French leader that it is the right of the Greek government to decide how the burden of the measures will be distributed.
The move, which to critics smacks of unilateralism, is seen as a bid by the government to pressure the creditors to wrap up negotiations before the April 22 Eurogroup meeting and seal the deal by the end of the month so as to avoid their extension into June, and to pave the way for debt relief discussions – a key demand of the leftist government.
To that effect, according to Reuters, the government will ask lenders at the April 15-17 International Monetary Fund Spring Meeting in Washington to lock its annual debt servicing costs on Greece’s official loans at a fixed interest rate so as to to allow it to service its debt, which the IMF has repeatedly said is “highly unsustainable.”
Greece has slammed the Washington-based Fund as an obstacle to the conclusion of the review because it is asking for more reforms. However, the IMF’s push for Greek debt relief has brought it into conflict with the European lenders and Germany’s Finance Minster Wolfgang Schaeuble, who insists there is no need for a Greek debt restructuring.
Although Greece’s international creditors expressed concern over the government’s decision to introduce draft legislation without their prior approval, European officials adopted a wait-and-see stance on Wednesday, opting to wait for the contents of the would-be legislation to be revealed first.
“All sides should keep a cool head,” European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday, adding that it was imperative that a repeat of last year’s “dramatic scenario and talk of Grexit” be avoided.