NEWS

Tsipras tries to strike balanced tone in first cabinet address

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in his first cabinet meeting on Wednesday that his government would not force a confrontation with the country’s international creditors even as his ministers pledged to overturn many of the reforms demanded by the creditors in exchange for rescue funding.

“We do not plan to head into a mutually catastrophic clash but we will not continue the disastrous policy of submission,” Tsipras said, adding that his government was “ready with realistic proposals on the issue of debt and investments.”

“We will prove wrong those who have doubted us.”

The premier set out his government’s four chief priorities – tackling the country’s “humanitarian crisis,” rebooting the economy, seeking a solution to Greece’s debt problem, and clashing with vested interests.

He said these and other goals would be detailed in the government’s policy program which is to be unveiled in Parliament soon. The House is to convene on February 5 with a vote on the government’s presidential candidate one of the first tasks ahead of it as well as the presentation of the policy program.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis initially appeared to strike a harder tone than Tsipras, describing Greece’s memorandums as “a toxic mistake” and saying the new government would seek a “Pan-European New Deal” which he described as a “bridge” between previous agreements and a new arrangement with the troika of creditors.

One of the first things his ministry will do, Varoufakis said, would be to reduce costs at the Finance Ministry by reducing the number of advisers. He also promised to rehire hundreds of sacked cleaning staff; they were replaced last year by a private firm that the outgoing government claimed was less costly.

Tsipras and Varoufakis are to receive European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Athens on Thursday and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday. On Wednesday Varoufakis said he had spoken with Dijsselbloem on Monday and that the two had found “common ground” regarding the way forward toward an agreement with creditors. Varoufakis said they agreed to “deconstruct” scenarios casting the talks as “a Far West-type duel.”

According to sources, the government wants there to be a transitionary period between the end of the current bailout program and the launch of a new program to be agreed by the summer with creditors on the basis of SYRIZA’s anti-austerity proposals.

Responding to questions about intense upheaval on the markets on Wednesday as government officials heralded their plans, Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, who is to oversee the enforcement of economic policy and talks with the troika, said the government was seeking “neither to clash, nor to compromise” with creditors and that it would present its own program. “The memorandum has expired for us,” he said.