With technical representatives of the country’s international creditors due back in the capital on Monday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday underlined the importance of Greece completing a third review of its latest bailout in the fall “with great speed.”
Addressing a media conference the day after inaugurating the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in the northern port, Tsipras rebuffed questions about the capability of his government, and the possibility of a reshuffle, insisting that previous delays had been due to disagreements between Greece’s creditors and had not been the fault of his administration.
“I will convene the cabinet directly so the necessary action can be taken for the completion of the third review as soon as possible,” he said.
Tsipras welcomed calls by French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Athens last week, for Greece’s creditors to approach negotiations “in good faith.” “The end of the Greek crisis will be the end of the European crisis,” he said. The premier also called on the International Monetary Fund to delay no further in deciding whether it will join Greece’s third bailout, noting that “constant uncertainty does no one any good.”
Despite enforcing tough measures mandated by creditors, his government remains committed to supporting Greeks who have borne the burden of austerity, the leftist prime minister said. “We are optimistic about having created the fiscal leeway that will allow us to carry out corrections from 2019 that will relieve those who have had been burdened the most,” Tsipras said.
In his speech before the country’s political and business elite on Saturday night, Tsipras declared that “Greece is turning a page,” and has moved from “Grexit” – the risk of exiting the eurozone – to “Grinvest” as investor interest grows.
“The country is becoming a strategic partner of the planet’s major financial powers,” he said, referring to recent visits to Greece by French and Russian leaders, and from China, which is this year’s “honored” country at the Thessaloniki event.
Tsipras heralded a “new growth model unencumbered by the distortions of the past” and stressed the importance of “shaping policies that guarantee we do not return to the past.”
He underlined the increased interest of investors in Greece, noting that this is not a “natural phenomenon” but based on signs of a gradual return to growth, and citing official statistics indicating that growth will approach 2 percent of gross domestic product this year. Tsipras stressed, however, that “growth reflected only in figures which is not for the many is not growth at all.”
Earlier on Saturday evening, labor unions staged rallies in the northern port to protest the government’s austerity policies that were mostly peaceful. Shortly before Tsipras took the stage on Saturday night, a group of far-left protesters tried to break a police cordon guarding the venue but were pushed back by officers who fired tear gas to disperse them.
Tsipras’s comments in Thessaloniki provoked a barrage of criticism from the political opposition.
“Tsipras provided no answer to the real questions of Greek citizens,” conservative New Democracy remarked, referring to “the 100 billion euros with which he burdened citizens, new taxes and pension cuts, foreclosures and seizures, capital controls and mass firings,” among other alleged repercussions of his government’s actions. “Once again, Tsipras's audacity has proven that his wearing the guise of a serious prime minister is a joke.”
Centrist To Potami, for its part, noted that Tsipras had moved from pledges for renegotiations and debt reduction to “new words like entrepreneurship, investments and innovation,” noting however that several of his ministers have thrown up obstacles to investments.
In a blunt statement PASOK remarked that “the trickery continues.”