Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (l) and French President Francois Hollande (r) during a meeting ahead of the second day of a summit in Brussels, Friday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras left Brussels on Friday without securing any firm commitment as regards Greece’s debt problem but signaled nonetheless that he expected “positive developments” in early December.
“I believe that by the December Eurogroup we may have positive developments and positive decisions,” Tsipras told a press conference on Friday evening, referring to a scheduled meeting of eurozone finance ministers on December 5.
“So Greece will be part of the QE program at the start of or early in the new year,” Tsipras said, referring to the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program.
“That will send a signal to the investment community, which is waiting to determine that the worst is behind us,” he added.
The comments were an attempt to put a positive spin on developments after talks on the sidelines of the meeting with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to elicit concrete commitments.
Tsipras indicated that failure to achieve a breakthrough on Greek debt could trigger a new difficult period. “No one wants more upheaval,” he said, noting that 2017 is an election year for several countries, an apparent dig at Germany which has made clear that it does not want a Greek debt restructuring until after general elections planned for September 2017.
Sources said Tsipras’s conversation with Merkel was brief, with the latter noting that representatives of Greece’s international creditors would decide on what to do with the country’s debt.
One German source said Merkel told Tsipras that decisions on Greek debt are not up to Germany and will be taken at the level of the Eurogroup, echoing a stance that she has assumed many times in the past with Tsipras.
Hollande, questioned by reporters about his conversation with Tsipras, noted that eurozone leaders have promised Greece debt relief since 2012 but for there to be progress, action must be taken by both sides.
The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have to honor their commitments and support Greece’s position but Athens must also honor its commitments for the second review, such as reforms in the labor market, Hollande said.
Tsipras also insisted that Greece’s EU partners meet their obligations, on a series of fronts, including in their response to the refugee crisis.
He said it was “unacceptable” that an original European plan for relocating 66,000 refugees from Greece to other EU member-states is badly lagging with only 5,200 relocations having been carried out so far.
He also complained about the delay in the realization of another EU commitment to to send hundreds of experts to Greece to help speed up the processing of asylum claims, noting that the Aegean islands currently have just 32 such experts.
Back in Athens, Tsipras is expected to shift his focus back to domestic concerns, with speculation growing about a government reshuffle as early as next week.
Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Friday that the reshuffle would be “substantial” but that key ministers involved in talks with representatives of the country’s creditors would likely remain in their posts.