With no follow-up statement in favor of Greek debt relief by outgoing US President Obama in Berlin Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to strike a note of hope, declaring that the end of a review by Greece’s creditors, and economic recovery, are in sight.
Athens had been hoping for a statement by Obama akin to the comments he made while in Athens, underlining the need for debt relief to accompany reforms if the Greek economy is to grow. However, in view of Berlin’s repeated opposition to a Greek debt restructuring, Obama did not broach the subject in his public statements with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Greek government sources acknowledged Thursday that it would be difficult for him to make such a statement for Greek debt relief while in Berlin.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has been the most passionate proponent of the need for austerity and stringent economic reform before debt relief can be considered for Greece, reiterated his conviction Thursday.
“Whoever talks about lightening the debt for Greece is not helping those who are in favor of reforms in the country,” he said in comments from Vienna just a day after declaring that restructuring Greece’s debt burden would be doing the country “a disservice.”
In his comments in Parliament, Tsipras did not dwell on the issue of debt relief, but tried to appear upbeat about Greece’s prospects, saying that the bailout review would soon be completed, paving the way for debt talks and Greece’s inclusion in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program.
“We have achieved a lot but we still have a long way to go,” Tsipras said. “It will be a hard road but at the same time the end is in sight,” he said, adding that “we will keep striving until this country returns to conditions of stability and normality.”
His government is determined, he said, to “put the economy and society back on their feet and return to our people the rights, the social protection and the conditions of life and work that the harsh austerity of previous years has deprived them.”
Tsipras is still aiming for a decision on Greek debt relief on December 5, when Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to meet with eurozone counterparts for talks on Greece’s progress in implementing its bailout program.
Athens is hoping for specific commitments as regards short-term measures for debt relief and less concrete guidelines on medium- and short-term relief.
Greek officials are also pressing representatives of Greece’s creditors to agree to less strict budget targets after 2019.