ATHENS – With no evidence to back it up, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the country is “one step from the crisis” exit, referring to a near six-year long economic battering brought on my austerity measures he once rejected but has since embraced.
The Radical Left SYRIZA leader’s coalition government with the pro-austerity, far-right Independent Greeks is locked in reforms with international creditors that have stalled since he agreed in July, 2015 to the harsh terms tied to a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($98 billion) he said he would never seek nor accept but did both.
Since then he’s been feverishly trying to avoid imposing more pension cuts but that has resulted in a stalemate with the Quartet of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-IMF-ECB-ESM) as the economy has taken another plunge with tax revenues far off expectations.
The delays meant Greece missed its own deadline of reaching a deal before April 22 and as rising new New Democracy Conservative chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has taken his former ruling party to a 5.5 percent lead in polls, is sniping at Tsipras constantly.
Two tangled in Parliament where Tsipras introduced bills bowing to the Quartet, including tax hikes he swore to oppose, as well as social security cuts to meet demands for Greece to reach a primary budget surplus, which doesn’t include debt interest, social security and military expenditures and other costs.
Tsipras said his constant predictions of a recovery will be proved when the European statistics agency Eurostat releases its figures.
He said Mitsotakis is trying to deflect attention from what Tsipras called New Democracy’s bid to “shift the political agenda to the far-right political spectrum.”
“The allegation that connects the refugee crisis with terrorism is a well-known narrative of the most reactionary and intolerant parties of Europe… It is the position of those who close their borders, raise walls and blame peoples based on religion and origin,” he said.
Mitsotakis responded that Tsipras is soft on crime amid criticisms that SYRIZA is filled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers who want assassins released from prison.
“For some (ruling party) SYRIZA cadres the terms public order, safety and police are words that are practically forbidden; they are words that cause an allergy … Some people termed gatherings of 50 people that closed down central Athens as protests; others called attacks freedom,” he said, referring to street raids by self-styled anarchists operating from the Athens district Exarchia, known as a counter-culture “hub,” the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported
“A citizen’s freedom ends where the freedom of another citizen begins; and public safety is a central axis of the state’s function, and isn’t given away,” Mitsotakis said.
The creditors say they are inching nearer to an agreement over the next batch of reforms the cash-strapped country has to make to unlock further bailout funds and trigger debt-relief discussions.
Following weeks of criticism and delay, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top official of the grouping of the 19 euro countries, said April 22 that both sides “are close to an agreement on number of key areas, such as the pension reform, the income tax reform” and a privatization fund.
All those reforms were part of last summer’s bailout with the left-led Greek government. Greece narrowly avoided leaving the Eurozone by committing to further austerity measures in return for its third bailout.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)