GREEK prime minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday hailed the “important success” of his country’s negotiations with its creditors last week, but warned of more difficult consultations to come.
“We won a battle, but not the war. The difficulties lie ahead of us,” Tsipras said in a television appearance, adding Greece was seeing “the end of austerity and the bailout”.
Following weeks of accusations and distrust, Greece and its creditors in the 19-nation Eurozone reached an agreement on Friday to extend the country’s rescue loans, a move that should dramatically ease concerns it was heading for the euro exit as early as next month. The agreement means Greece will avoid going bankrupt, at least over the four months of the extension.
To get the money though, the Greek government has to present a series of unspecified economic reforms deemed acceptable by creditors and rooted in Greece’s previously enacted bailout agreement – something the Syriza government had promised not to do.
“It is a good balance that has been reached for Greece. And it was made possible because Greece has shown a strong sense of responsibility and Europe has shown a lot of solidarity. Those are the principles that I have laid down,” French president François Hollande said of the agreement. Faced with criticism that he came away with few concessions, Tsipras clearly aimed to put his own spin on the deal.
“Twenty days ago, we took over a country on the edge of the abyss, with an empty treasury, and facing suffocating deadlines,” Tsipras claimed, despite the fact that Greece achieved a modest growth last year as well as a primary budget surplus.
Tsipras and finance minister Yanis Varoufakis were meeting Greece’s inner cabinet yesterday to brief it on the Eurogroup meeting and discuss the proposals.
Tsipras didn’t specify what reforms would be considered but mentioned a crackdown on tax evasion and corruption, reforming the state sector and dealing with the country’s “humanitarian crisis”.
The cabinet will also decide what to do with promises to legislate easier terms for debtors and preventing foreclosures on homes.
Friday night’s agreement was clinched just a week before Greece’s ¤240 billion (£178bn) bailout programme expires and is aimed at buying time for both sides to agree on a longer-term deal to ease the financial burden. According to the deal, the Greek government cannot introduce legislation that goes against terms agreed with creditors.
The agreement was greeted with relief by some Greeks as a first step forward and away from the crushing austerity of recent years. Others were more sceptical, wondering whether the Syriza government will be able to keep even a fraction of its promises and how it will find the cash to finance them.
“It was a good start. There is a long way ahead of us, but I am optimistic. At least things will not get worse,” said Thomas Michalopoulos, 34, a private company employee.
“I don’t know. Where will they find the money to fund all those promises they have made?” asked Maria Kefala, a student and journalist.
“I think that nothing changed,” added pensioner Paradissanos Rigas, 72.