Prospects for deal in bailout talks get more dis­tant

Tsipras sees ac­cord with lenders in April

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Af­ter yet another round of in­con­clu­sive bailout talks in Athens, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras said he be­lieved a com­pre­hen­sive deal with cred­i­tors could be reached by April while tak­ing a dig at the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund over its tough stance on la­bor rights.

In com­ments to re­porters at the end of a sum­mit of Euro­pean Union lead­ers in Brus­sels, Tsipras said he be­lieved a tech­ni­cal-level agree­ment could still be reached in time for a March 20 Eurogroup, with a broader ac­cord, in­clud­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of medium-term debt re­lief mea­sures, com­ing in April.

Tsipras in­di­cated, how­ever, that tough talks on col­lec­tive wage bar­gain­ing would be harder to con­clude. “That is­sue can’t be solved at the tech­ni­cal level. There’s a dis­agree­ment,” he said, adding that the IMF must un­der­stand that Greece is a Euro­pean coun­try and that non-Euro­pean la­bor mod­els can­not be im­posed on it.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment yes­ter­day, IMF chief Chris­tine La­garde said Tsipras asked the Fund “to stand by Greece” in its third bailout pro­gram.

“To com­mit to Greece, as the Greek prime min­is­ter has re­quested, in ad­di­tion to re­forms, the debt should be sus­tain­able,” La­garde told French news­pa­per Le Parisien in an in­ter­view. “This re­quires re­struc­tur­ing, which could be done through var­i­ous ac­tions such as a sig­nif­i­cant length­en­ing of re­pay­ment, or with very low ceil­ings in in­ter­est rates,” she said, not­ing that the Fund is try­ing to con­vince Greece’s Euro­pean cred­i­tors of the need to re­struc­ture the coun­try’s debt.

Ques­tioned about his com­ments to La­garde, Tsipras of­fered re­porters a clar­i­fi­ca­tion. “I asked for the Fund’s com­mit­ment that its pres­ence would not be ‘a la carte,’ just with mea­sures, but also for the debt, where the tac­tic of the Euro­peans is to kick the can down the road,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg, the IMF is mov­ing to­ward back­ing Greece’s third bailout. The Fund is said to be ready to bol­ster the pro­gram with be­tween 3 and 6 bil­lion US dol­lars (or be­tween 2.8 and 5.6 bil­lion eu­ros), com­pared with a 31-bil­lion-dol­lar (29-bil­lioneuro) credit line un­der Greece’s sec­ond bailout in 2012.

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view with Bloomberg, op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis re­peated that his con­ser­va­tive party would not back fur­ther aus­ter­ity mea­sures that Greece’s cred­i­tors want to be leg­is­lated now and en­forced at the end of the pro­gram, as of 2019.

Mit­so­takis said his con­ser­va­tive party had re­peat­edly crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment for fail­ing to im­ple­ment struc­tural re­forms and “take own­er­ship” of the pro­gram but also slammed the cred­i­tors for “ex­ces­sive fis­cal mea­sures.”

While in Brus­sels, Tsipras also had talks with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, telling re­porters later that the Ger­man leader was “ex­tremely, maybe even wor­ry­ingly, op­ti­mistic” about the prospects for a swift con­clu­sion to the bailout re­view.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel (l) talks to Greek PM Alexis Tsipras at an EU sum­mit in Brus­sels yes­ter­day. Tsipras said Merkel seemed ‘ex­tremely, maybe even wor­ry­ingly, op­ti­mistic’ about the prospects for a swift end to bailout talks.

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