ATHENS – Greek lawmakers are debating legislation cancelling a major round of pension cuts which were to take effect on Jan. 1, after the country secured the agreement of bailout lenders that the cuts were no longer necessary for a balanced budget.
Parliament is to vote Tuesday on whether to cancel articles in a law passed last year that would impose cuts worth 1 percent of gross domestic product. The measures would have seen 1.4 million of Greece’s 2.6 million pensioners face monthly losses of at least 14 percent, according to European Commission estimates.
Tsipras: We are correcting the injustices created by harsh austerity
“Today is a happy day for millions of our fellow citizens,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday, in his address to Parliament during the plenary debate on the bill annulling prelegislated pension cuts.
“I am glad,” he said, “that all deputies will be happy to vote for another positive social measure.”
“Some do not understand that each step is part of a clear and specific plan. So they talk about promises and handouts,” Tsipras said, referring to the main opposition.
“We do not give handouts. But we are correcting the injustices created by the harsh and unprecedented austerity of your [time in power],” he noted.
“We are gradually returning to those hurt by the crisis and the memorandums what they were unfairly deprived of for years,” he said.
Regarding a measure for the abolition of the subminimum wage for young employees also tabled by the government, he noted that it was a “shameful” regime that had disrupted the labour market and led to wage discrimination against the younger generation.
Criticising a tweet posted by main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, he said it was “infuriating for a generation that your policies have forced to work for pocket money, without insurance or even basic labour rights” and noted that young people did not believe that they would ever qualify for a pension and for this reason chose to work uninsured.
Speaking of the draft law on the annulment of the pension cuts, Tsipras said that many, both inside and outside Parliament, cannot now believe their eyes, having staked everything on Europe’s refusal to agree to abolishing the cuts. “We warned you at every opportunity and in every way to not rush to conclusions about pensions,” he said.
When Mitsotakis went to Berlin, Tsipras added, hoping for a statement indicating that Germany will insist on the implementation of pension cuts, he had returned empty handed.
Mitsotakis: 2019 is an election year and the Greeks will send you back to the opposition
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis sternly attacked Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in his speech in parliament on Tuesday, during the discussion of a draft bill annulling prelegislated pension cuts.
“You are the longest-serving memorandum prime minister,” Mitsotakis said, adding that “2019 is an election year and your course will end at the ballot box, with the Greek people sending you back to the opposition.”
Accusing Tsipras of believing that he can mislead society, Mitsotakis added that “all citizens know that your policy is a great lie. Today you celebrate 1,447 dark days in power.”
He challenged Tsipras to explain the statements made by FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev about a “Macedonian language” that should be taught in Greece. “Zaev won what six prime ministers had not have given him for 27 years. The Macedonian identity and language,” Mitsotakis noted.
“We do not agree with the slogan ‘Democracy sold out Macedonia’ because you did it by yourselves, when the rest of us were against it. Even Bulgaria disagreed with the Macedonian language,” he added.
“You exchanged the FYROM issue with the pension cuts, you exchanged a measure that you should not have passed with a major national retreat,” Mitsotakis said, addressing the prime minister. “In Brussels, what they say about you is that no other Greek prime minister was so easy to negotiate with. You gave everything, Mr. Tsipras,” he added.
“You have mortgaged the country’s wealth and agreed to high surpluses, this is the unofficial fourth memorandum” claimed ND’s leader.
“It was a policy against everyone…. The danger of not being able to borrow from the markets at reasonable interest rates and having to resort to the EU like beggars is not passed,” said Mitsotakis. He urged Tsipras to call general elections as soon as possible and give the Greek people an opportunity to decide on both the economy and the FYROM issue.
(Material from the Athens-Macedonia News Agency and the Associated Press was used in this report)