NEWS

PM puts opposition on spot, reveals little on reform list, creditor talks

As representatives of the Greek government and the country’s international creditors continued tough talks on a proposed list of Greek reforms in Brussels, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed Parliament in a speech that attacked the political opposition and failed to yield much detail about the suggested package of measures.

Although Tsipras ostensibly called the emergency session in Parliament on Monday night to shed some light on the progress of negotiations, or at least on Greece’s intentions vis-a-vis its creditors as cash reserves run dangerously low, little new emerged. The premier said Athens wanted a deal with its lenders but not at any cost. “It is true that we are seeking an honest compromise with our lenders, but don’t expect an unconditional surrender,” he said. He added that Greece had submitted its list of “short-term measures” to creditors, noting that these included curbing fuel and tobacco smuggling, conducting checks on foreign bank tranfers and curbing VAT fraud. “It’s time for the privileged to start paying and for the looting of the middle class and salaried workers to stop,” he said.

The premier took stock of the government’s legislative work to date, notably the passing of a humanitarian aid bill and a payment plan for tax debtors; the latter, which allows debtors to repay their dues in up to 100 installments, has raised 100 million euros in a week, he said. But Tsipras emphasized that, notwithstanding efforts to raise much-needed revenue, Greece requires a debt restructuring if it is to be able to repay its debt burden.

The premier sought to put opposition leaders on the spot, calling on them to support the government’s “national negotiation strategy to put an end to austerity” and not to simply be “mouthpieces for the powers of the memorandum.” He lashed out in particular at the parties of the former coalition, which he accused of destroying Greece. “We inherited a country not on the edge of the abyss, but deep in the abyss already,” Tsipras said.

Former Premier and the leader of New Democracy Antonis Samaras hit back at his successor in his own speech. “We inherited chaos and handed over a country,” he said. “You took over a country and are preparing to throw it into chaos,” he said. Commenting on suggestions by some government officials that Greece might not be able to meet a payment to the International Monetary Fund due next week, Samaras said such a development would be a “credit event” and could lead to disastrous consequences and Greece leaving the euro. Samaras said ND would support the government but suggested that SYRIZA’s own internal dissent could be the biggest problem. “The situation can still be saved. We will support you to stop the country hitting the rocks, but you are the government. Can you handle the responsibility of keeping Greece on its feet?”

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos also indicated that his party would back the government but only if it had “a national strategy, not opportunism.”