EU Denies Coming Greek Pension Cuts Will Be Stopped

FILE - Greek Financial Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris).

ATHENS – A report in Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) that Greece’s creditors would let Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras stop more coming pension cuts was wrong, the European Commission said.

The story that Tsipras would be allowed to back off the cuts he agreed to implement after swearing he wouldn’t were backed initially by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, who also said the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) had informed rival parties, which was also wrong, said Kathimerini.

“Our position is crystal-clear: Pacta sunt servanda. This is the only position you need to look at,” Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told a news briefing, using a Latin proverb which means “agreements must be kept.”

The report came as envoys from the Troika were in Athens to review progress in reforms and austerity, beginning years of scrutiny after Tsipras said there would be a “clean exit” and that the lenders wouldn’t have any more oversight.

There was no reference to the pension cuts as the first review got underway. “The mission held discussions on the situation and key challenges facing the Greek economy in the post-program period, as well as the state of play and next steps in the implementation of Greece’s commitment to continue and complete the key reforms launched under the program,” a statement read.

Instead, the envoys said that the discussion focused “on the fiscal situation and outlook, which will feed into the preparation of Greece’s Draft Budgetary Plan for 2019, to be submitted to the Commission by 15 October, as well as on the implementation of the nonperforming loans resolution strategy,” referring to the mountain of bad loans burying Greek banks.

The pension cuts were agreed in 2017 by Greece and the Troika as part of more austerity attached to a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($100.06 billion) that Tsipras sought in the summer of 2015 after saying he wouldn’t, breaking yet another pledge.

Tsipras is counting on stopping the new pension cuts to help slow his slide in polls after breaking his word and implementing more brutal conditions on workers, pensioners and the poor while letting politicians, the rich and tax cheats escape and reneging on a promise to “crush the oligarchy,” instead surrendering to them as he did the Troika.

The major rival New Democracy, with big leads in polls with elections required to be held by October, 2019, said the report pension cuts would he halted was “fake” and that it had not been informed, neither by the government nor Troika envoys during meetings with party officials.

New Democracy accused ANA-MPA of spreading fake news and becoming an “instrument of government propaganda.”

The Movement for Change, led by officials from the former PASOK Socialist party that broke apart after backing austerity while serving New Democracy in a previous coalition, also said it was never told the pension cuts would be stopped and said the report was “fake news apparently ordered by Maximos Mansion,” referring to the Prime Minister’s headquarters.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said talks were underway with the Troika about stopping the pension cuts although the creditors said they weren’t, with the government continuing a pattern of making unfounded statements.

Asked about the position of Germany, the biggest contributor to 326 billion euros ($379.29 billion) in three rescue packages since 2010 from the Troika and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) he told the business newspaper Naftemporiki that, “We’re now operating within a framework based more on persuasion than imposition,” without explaining what the vague comment meant.

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