Greece exits bailout programs but concerns remain

Greece exits bailout programs but concerns remain

Greece’s formal emergence from eight years of international bailouts Monday was welcomed by European officials who, however, stressed the importance of Greek authorities staying the course of reforms, casting a shadow over the government’s “clean exit” narrative.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to give a televised address Tuesday heralding a new era of greater fiscal freedom. In an attempt to add symbolism to the event, sources have indicated that Tsipras will deliver his speech from Ithaca, the island that Odysseus strove for 10 years to return to after the Trojan War.

Amid renewed speculation of an imminent cabinet reshuffle, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos Monday claimed that Greece and its people had entered a “new phase” and promised that “citizens will soon feel the difference.”

“The political freedom that the government has at the moment is much greater than what it had before,” he added.

Conservative New Democracy hit back, deriding the government’s narrative of a “clean exit” amid continuing oversight and conditions, and accusing Tsipras of “disastrous governance.” 

The rhetoric of European officials, meanwhile, was more upbeat but they reiterated that Greece must not deviate from the path of reforms.

“With control comes responsibility. Greeks paid dearly for the bad policies of the past, so going back would be a bad mistake,” Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno tweeted, adding in an accompanying video that “economic growth has picked up, new jobs are being created and there is a fiscal and trade surplus.”

EU Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici also insisted that reforms must be adhered to, saying that “commitments have to be respected” when asked if there was any chance that there could be a suspension of pension cuts planned for January 1, 2019.

He said that the draft budget in October will show if there is any fiscal scope for changes.

Moscovici added that surveillance of Greece in the post-bailout era will ensure that the government delivers on reforms.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, for his part, said he always fought for Greece to remain at the heart of Europe.

“As the Greek people begin a new chapter in their storied history, they will always find in me an ally, a partner and a friend.”

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