Threat of more aus­ter­ity looms

Athens fears IMF and Ber­lin will reach deal for fur­ther mea­sures as Euro of­fi­cials call for debt re­lief

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

With the gov­ern­ment bank­ing on se­cur­ing a “po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion” at Mon­day’s Eurogroup – as the con­clu­sion of the bailout re­view is now seem­ingly out of reach – the prospect of fur­ther aus­ter­ity as de­manded by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund re­mains the big­gest thorn in its side.

In­deed, Athens’s big­gest fear is that the IMF and Ber­lin will strike a deal de­mand­ing more mea­sures as high­lighted in com­ments by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment can­not ac­cept “com­pro­mise deals made be­tween the IMF and the European coun­tries on the back of Greece.”

Tsakalo­tos crit­i­cized the IMF for pres­sur­ing Greece to im­ple­ment more mea­sures while fail­ing to urge European coun­tries to grant the coun­try debt re­lief, and aimed fire at the eu­ro­zone for agree­ing to dis­cuss la­bor mea­sures that stray be­yond ac­cepted European prin­ci­ples.

Re­fer­ring to the la­bor regulation de­mands, he said: “Those in­sti­tu­tions should not con­sider a coun­try that is in a [bailout] pro­gram to have lesser rights. I think it’s not right, not morally right,” while gov­ern­ment aides yes­ter­day said the re­view would have al­ready been con­cluded had it not been for the IMF’s de­mand for more mea­sures in ex­change for its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the bailout.

How­ever, Athens’s case for debt re­lief re­ceived a boost yes­ter­day af­ter se­nior European of­fi­cials said a so­lu­tion was over­due. European Cen­tral Bank ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber Benoit Coeure, who was in Athens yes­ter­day, said the ECB was “look­ing for­ward to a so­lu­tion” and “all stake­hold­ers in the Greek ad­just­ment pro­gram must re­al­ize that there are se­ri­ous con­cerns about the sus­tain­abil­ity of the Greek pub­lic debt.” ECB chief Mario Draghi, for his part, said yes­ter­day that a so­lu­tion to the Greek debt is­sue would be in the in­ter­est of the eu­ro­zone.

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, who also met with EU Fi­nance Com­mis­sioner Pierre Moscovici yes­ter­day, said it was time for “brave de­ci­sions” by all par­ties in­volved, while the French of­fi­cial in­sisted that “we must def­i­nitely be­gin dis­cus­sions on the debt.”

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Tsipras told Moscovici Athens will not ac­cept any deal on la­bor laws that does not in­clude the re­turn of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. For his part, Moscovici said the Com­mis­sion can­not agree to a so­lu­tion that does not ad­here to the European so­cial model.

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