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Opening SYRIZA conference, Tsipras takes hard line on debt

TAGS: Politics

In a speech opening a SYRIZA party conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras repeated calls for debt relief, saying that his government has implemented reforms demanded by international creditors and that it is their turn to keep their promises.

“The agreement must be honored by all sides,” Tsipras said. Delays in launching talks on debt relief are “not justifiable,” he said, adding that the “constant clash and disagreements between the institutions” was preventing progress.

Greece also wants to be included in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program, Tsipras said. Inclusion in QE and the launch of talks on debt relief should be “simultaneous with the conclusion of the second review,” Tsipras said, speaking just a few days before representatives of Greece’s international creditors are due to return to Athens.

“There is no more ‘Let’s see,’” he said. “The Greek people have suffered for so many years and deserve to be compensated,” Tsipras said, adding that Greeks “have made the biggest sacrifices to keep Europe standing – both with the debt crisis and the refugee crisis.”

Tsipras also indicated that SYRIZA should work with other center-left parties in Europe both in fighting austerity and in tackling the refugee crisis.

As for renewed debate about plans for a Greek exit from the euro last year, Tsipras said it was German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who had a plan for Greece to exit the single currency, not the left.

Meanwhile, as speculation about a possible reshuffle swirled, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said there would be no overhaul now but that “at some stage there will be a reshuffle.”

According to government sources, Tsipras has been advised both in favor of and against a reshuffle. Those in favor say an immediate reshuffle after the party conference will strengthen Tsipras and his government, both from within the party and in terms of the government’s public image.

Other advisers believe that an immediate reshuffle could be counterproductive as bailout talks are to resume in a few days.

A potential compromise would be a light reshuffle, with new faces in deputy minister slots and no changes to key portfolios.

One possible change is the inclusion of Fotis Kouvelis, former Democratic Left leader, as a minister. Kouvelis, who pulled out of the conservative-led coalition in 2013 in protest at the closure of state broadcaster ERT, was among many prominent figures of the center-left at the conference on Thursday.

On the sidelines of the event, Kouvelis told ANA-MPA that he backs Tsipras, who he once mentored before a rift emerged between the two men.

“We align with the forces of SYRIZA to fend off plans for a ‘left parenthesis’ and a ‘right-wing restoration,’” he said.

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