NEWS

Tsipras refuses to give ground in halted talks

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to speak to SYRIZA MPs on Monday amid growing pressure from lenders to accept their proposal for breaking a deadlock in bailout talks, which the Greek leader has so far refused to consider.

SYRIZA’s parliamentary group is due to convene at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the wake of talks between a Greek delegations and representatives of the country’s lenders failing to achieve a breakthrough in Brussels over the weekend. Before speaking to his lawmakers, Tsipras is due to meet the new PASOK leader, Fofi Gennimata, To Potami chief Stavros Theodorakis and New Democracy deputy Dora Bakoyannis.

Ahead of these meetings, Tsipras remained defiant Monday. He issued a statement saying that his government would not give in to demands for pension cuts. “One can only suspect political motives behind the institutions’ insistence that new cuts be made to pensions despite five years of pillaging by the memoranda,” the prime minister said in his statement.

“We will patiently wait for the institutions to adhere to realism. This is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. This is about democracy,” said Tsipras.

His comments were echoed by spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis in his regular press briefing. “We have largely reached our limits,” he said, adding that the country’s lenders would have to show a willingness to compromise before Athens could offer any more concessions.

Despite the breakdown of the Brussels discussions, the Greek proposals leaked by Kathimerini showed that Athens has now accepted the lenders’ primary surplus targets of 1 percent of GDP for this year and 2 percent of GDP in 2016. Where there are still major differences is in the adjustments needed to value-added tax and cuts to pensions in order to hit those targets.

The Greek delegation left Brussels on Sunday with a difference of 1.2 billion euros in the amount of measures needed for this year alone. However, Greece’s lenders insist that they have backed down on fiscal targets to help secure a deal.

“It’s not a one-way street,” European Commission spokesperson Annika Breidthardt told a press conference. “The concessions... made and the flexibility that has been shown are already quite substantial.”

Breidthardt said the institutions are seeking savings of 1.8 billion euros per year from pension reform, whereas the Greek proposals for phasing out early retirement would lead to savings of just 71 million euros.

The distance between the Athens and its creditors following the weekend, and ahead of a Eurogroup meeting on Thursday, has led to further speculation about what might happen if Greece fails to secure an agreement by the end of the month and defaults.

“We should work out an emergency plan because Greece would fall into a state of emergency,” German EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger said. “Energy supplies, pay for police officials, medical supplies and pharmaceutical products and much more” needed to be ensured, he added.

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