ATHENS – Worn down by battles with the country’s creditors, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly ready to give in to demands for more tough reforms, hoping it will lead to talks about debt relief.
Tsipras, the leader of the Radical Left SYRIZA who leads a coalition with the pro-austerity, far-right, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) told the country’s international creditors – which include Germany – that he wants a deal by Christmas to give Greece a break from the 326 billion euros ($345.19 billion) it owes in three bailouts.
It wasn’t said what form that would take, such as lower interest, a longer time to repay or outright forgiveness of up to two-thirds of the debt, which would force taxpayers in the other 17 Eurozone countries to pick up the tab for generations of wild Greek overspending and runaway patronage in return for votes.
But the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and now the European Stability Mechanism keep wanting more reforms, including to labor laws, that Tsipras is trying to resist after reneging on virtually all his anti-austerity promises.
Tsipras and his key ministers are ready to give in to calls by foreign auditors for more flexibility in the crucial area of labor laws, the paper said, after already putting off its demands to restore collective wage bargaining, a key pledge of leftist SYRIZA before it came to power last year.
It is unclear to what degree the Greek side is willing to concede on other issues – such as calls by foreign officials for facilitating mass layoffs for struggling employers and making it harder for unions to call strikes.
Tsipras is on the horns of a dilemma: if he doesn’t follow the creditors orders Greece has no chance of even negotiating debt relief but if he resists it could further weaken his support within his party whose members have repeatedly been forced to abandon their principles.
He’s also sliding fast in the polls with the former ruling New Democracy Conservatives – who had also imposed austerity – taking a lead up to 12 percent or more in some surveys as even most hard-core SYRIZA voters have abandoned Tsipras.