Disputing Tsipras, Eurozone Chief Says Bailout Talks Lagging

FILE - Dutch Finance Minister and chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned that Greece is behind schedule in a third round of austerity and reform talks as part of a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($99.72 billion) that needs to be wrapped up before the end of the year.

That contradicts Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ assertion that it’s going great after he agreed to break promises and cut pensions again and tax low-income families while letting the rich, tax cheats and politicians escape.

Addressing the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Dijsselbloem said he was hopeful the deadline would be met nonetheless because so much is  at stake.

“We should not let the time lapse again,” he said, reminding that delays in the completion of the second bailout review had a direct impact on the growth rate. “The third review is going well, but certainly more has to be done,” he added, said Kathimerini.

The committee’s discussion focused on employment, with Dijsselbloem saying that although the jobless rate remains the highest in the European Union, there is a clear improvement, except for the 1.1 million people still without a job.

He said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, reneging on anti-austerity promises, has implemented labor reforms it swore to block with the result making the economy more competitive although it fell in world rankings in that category.

many labor reforms in the context of the bailout program, in order to render the Greek economy more competitive and the labor market more flexible, and to correct “imbalances.”

Tsipras told lawmakers in his party that the third round of talks is going well, the news agency Reuters said, after long delays over a second led to the economy deteriorating even further although he said it’s starting to show signs of coming back.

He said the talks this time, unlike some bitter back-and-forth previously, were being held in an “unusually good climate,” now that he agreed to cut pensioners further after vowing to restore them, and to tax lower-income families while letting the rich, oligarchs he said he would crush, politicians and tax cheats escape.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos also admitted the government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, far-right, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) deliberately targeted middle-income families with higher taxes and made them pay for social dividends for some lower-income pensioners whose benefits kept being cut by SYRIZA.

Eurozone officials said debt relief talk is off the table though until all conditions the Quartet ordered are met and the bailouts expire at the end of August, 2018.