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Lenders gave Greece option of 'velvet exit' from euro, says Venizelos

Greece’s lenders offered the country a “velvet exit” from the euro in 2011, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos claimed during a speech at PASOK’s congress in Athens Friday as he proposed that the Socialists combine forces with coalition partner Democratic Left at the next general elections.

Venizelos told some 4,000 delegates at the Peace and Friendship Stadium that shortly after he was appointed finance minister in 2011, he had a severe disagreement with visiting troika officials that led to a proposal for Greece to leave the euro.

“The issue that led to the clash with the troika at the end of August 2011 was that we could not accept anymore measures that would blindly feed the recession and unemployment,” said Venizelos.

“Then we received proposals to receive funding so there would be a velvet exit from the euro. We rejected them.”

He went on to argue that this conflict with the troika led to the PASOK government being forced to adopt an unpopular property tax levied via electricity bills just a few weeks after Venizelos had denied this policy would be followed. He said that agreeing to bring in 2 billion euros in revenues through this tax led to subsequent agreements with the troika, including an extension to the time Greece had to complete its fiscal adjustment.

The focus of Venizelos’s speech was on extending an invitation for cooperation to Democratic Left (DIMAR), which rejected the chance to take an active part in PASOK’s congress, which continues until Sunday.

Venizelos insisted that his approach to DIMAR was not “opportunistic,” although he questioned whether Fotis Kouvelis’s party found it easier to work with conservative New Democracy rather than fellow social democratic PASOK.

The Socialist leader also brushed off the decisions of his predecessors Costas Simitis and George Papandreou not to attend the congress.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 1, 2013 (23:01)  
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