PM shifts fo­cus to Con­sti­tu­tion

As bailout talks drag on, and with no prospects of a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment, Tsipras her­alds public con­sul­ta­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

As gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials sought yes­ter­day to play down ex­pec­ta­tions of a swift con­clu­sion to a drag­ging bailout re­view, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras de­clared the launch of a public con­sul­ta­tion on a re­vi­sion of the Con­sti­tu­tion in an ap­par­ent at­tempt at dis­trac­tion tac­tics.

Sources close to the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and en­voys rep­re­sent­ing Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors yes­ter­day re­ferred to “a course of con­ver­gence on a range of is­sues” be­tween the two sides “that gives scope for op­ti­mism,” us­ing sig­nif­i­cantly less upbeat lan­guage than they did af­ter a Eurogroup sum­mit on Fe­bru­ary 20 where the re­sump­tion of talks had been de­cided. Ac­cord­ing to those sources, the chal­lenge is to find a com­pro­mise be­tween the de­mands of for­eign au­di­tors and the scope of the gov­ern­ment to make con­ces­sions.

Greek of­fi­cials have been in­sist­ing on in­clud­ing a se­ries of so-called “coun­ter­mea­sures” in any bill that goes to Par­lia­ment, with re­duc­tions in value-added tax among the ideas be­ing pro­posed, which would sweeten the pill for coali­tion MPs balk­ing at the prospect of vot­ing for ad­di­tional aus­ter­ity.

Tsipras is due in Brus­sels to­mor­row and Fri­day for a Euro­pean Union lead­ers’ sum­mit but is not ex­pected to press his peers for a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment as he has done in the past. “There is no need for the dis­cus­sion to go to the po­lit­i­cal level,” one source said. “The frame­work for an agree­ment at the tech­ni­cal level is clear,” the source added.

It re­mained un­clear on Tues­day when such an agree­ment might be reached. How­ever, for­eign en­voys were ex­pected to ex­tend their stay in Athens af­ter a cer­tain level of “com­mon ground” was es­tab­lished rather than leav­ing on Tues­day night as orig­i­nally planned.

Mean­while, in an ap­par­ent ef­fort to shift public at­ten­tion to a less con­tro­ver­sial and thorny sub­ject, Tsipras de­clared the launch of a public con­sul­ta­tion on a re­view of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Speak­ing of “an ini­tia­tive for es­sen­tial di­a­logue,” Tsipras said cit­i­zens would be able to par­tic­i­pate in the de­bate by vis­it­ing www.syn­tagma-di­al­o­gos.gov.gr.

The gov­ern­ment aims to con­clude the con­sul­ta­tion by the end of sum­mer so the process can move to Par­lia­ment in the fall.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties were scathing, ac­cus­ing Tsipras of stag­ing a public re­la­tions stunt.

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