Gov’t plays down rifts, presents pos­i­tive nar­ra­tive

PM her­alds ‘growth fund’ amid protests

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials con­tin­ued to scram­ble yes­ter­day to present a pos­i­tive nar­ra­tive and a united front to the pub­lic de­spite the fact that bailout talks with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors are crawl­ing along and pub­lic dis­con­tent over fur­ther aus­ter­ity is ris­ing amid re­ports of di­vi­sions within the coali­tion.

In com­ments to Skai yes­ter­day, gov­ern­ment spokesman Dim­itris Tzanakopou­los played down the fact that Tsipras had de­clared a re­turn to growth ear­lier this week even as the coun­try’s sta­tis­tics agency, ELSTAT, pointed to an eco­nomic slump. “How could he [know]?” Tzanakopou­los re­marked when asked whether Tsipras knew about ELSTAT’s fig­ures when he her­alded growth. “ELSTAT is an in­de­pen­dent au­thor­ity which an­nounces its results with­out dis­cussing them with the Greek gov­ern­ment.” Asked whether Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos knew about ELSTAT’s data, how­ever, Tzanakopou­los, re­marked: “You should ask the fi­nance min­is­ter. I don’t know.” The com­ment fu­eled spec­u­la­tion about a rift be­tween Tzanakopou­los and Tsakalo­tos, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment spokesman to post a scathing com­ment on his Twit­ter ac­count. “Af­ter the failed ‘Tsipras vs Tsakalo­tos’ it seems that some have moved to the se­quel ‘Tzanakopou­los vs Tsakalo­tos.’ That won’t draw crowds ei­ther.”

Ef­forts by Tzanakopou­los to play down re­ports of a rift did not de­tract from the fact that Tsakalo­tos has adopted a dif­fer­ent stance in bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions re­cently to that pro­jected by Tsipras and his aides. Tsakalo­tos has made it clear in re­cent com­ments that he will not as­sume sole po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ne­go­ti­a­tions, re­fer­ring to a col­lec­tive ef­fort.

Speak­ing from Thes­sa­loniki, Tsipras con­tin­ued with his at­tempt to present a pos­i­tive nar­ra­tive as bailout talks drag on. A day af­ter herald­ing the launch of a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the re­vi­sion of the Con­sti­tu­tion – a move de­rided as dis­trac­tion tac­tics by the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion – Tsipras vis­ited Thes­sa­loniki for talks with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal and re­gional busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tions about growth-boost­ing strate­gies. Dur­ing his visit, Tsipras an­nounced the cre­ation of a “growth fund” for western Mace­do­nia aimed at im­prov­ing lo­cal busi­nesses’ ac­cess to struc­tural fund­ing.

How­ever, large crowds turned out to protest a new round of aus­ter­ity cur­rently be­ing dis­cussed be­tween Greek of­fi­cials and for­eign au­di­tors. Mean­while in Athens, hun­dreds of farm­ers clashed with riot po­lice over fur­ther in­creases in taxes and so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions.

Talks con­tin­ued in Athens yes­ter­day be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and for­eign en­voys with sources point­ing to con­ver­gence on some is­sues but Euro­pean of­fi­cials in­di­cat­ing that an agree­ment is still dis­tant. An EU of­fi­cial in Brus­sels told Kathimerini that the prospects for a tech­ni­cal-level agree­ment by a March 20 Eurogroup are slim and that a deal in May is a more prob­a­ble sce­nario.

Farm­ers clashed with riot po­lice dur­ing a rally in Athens yes­ter­day. More than 1,000 farm­ers from Crete joined hun­dreds more from the Pelo­pon­nese and Mace­do­nia to protest fur­ther hikes to taxes and so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions.

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