NEWS

Greek gov’t tries to spin anniversary as EU applies pressure

Protesting public hospital workers carry a banner with caricatures of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his coalition partner Panos Kammenos with elongated noses, accusing them of lying.

TAGS: Politics, Economy

As government officials sought to put a positive spin on the second anniversary of the coalition’s time in power on Wednesday, a top European official applied the pressure on Athens, saying that a dragging bailout review must be completed by the end of February, with the International Monetary Fund on board.

A document distributed by the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took stock of the government’s work since January 2015, declaring that it had stopped a catastrophic decline provoked by previous administrations and introduced a series of initiatives to ease the plight of those hardest hit by austerity.

Government officials are expected to draw from this document when they fan out across the country this weekend to convince Greeks that authorities are doing what they can to improve their daily lives even as further austerity looms.

Setting the tone in an interview in the Efimerida ton Syntakton published on Wednesday, Tsipras promised “not another euro” of new austerity measures. “Under no circumstances will we have legislation for any further austerity measures – not another euro – beyond what has already been agreed upon,” Tsipras said.

The political opposition struck a very different tone, with conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis referring to a “black anniversary.” “It is time to put an end to this national nightmare,” he said.

Meanwhile, eurozone finance ministers will meet Thursday in Brussels but there isn’t much hope for a deal now as there has not been enough progress in Greek reforms, as noted by European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday.

However, according to a senior European official, it is likely that the second review of Greece’s third bailout will be wrapped up at the next Eurogroup meeting on February 20, before elections begin in major EU countries – the Netherlands in March, French presidential elections in April and, possibly, in May, as well as German polls in September.

He said there is a “good chance” that an agreement will be reached at Thursday's Eurogroup meeting “to send negotiators back to Athens so that a deal can be reached in February.”

“February is the last month in which there is no politically significant election in relevant member-states,” he said. “February is not formally but realistically the time when we need to reach a political agreement.”

But he made it clear that the program must include the “full participation of the International Monetary Fund.”

“A string of hypotheses stipulating the nonparticipation of the IMF in the program showed very clearly that it would cause huge technical problems and delays,” he said, adding that those that regard the IMF’s withdrawal as something positive “should know what they are wishing for and stop wishing.”

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