Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said Greece’s international lenders are demanding too much in return for bailouts and urged a compromise.
Faymann, a Social Democrat who has taken a softer line on Greece than his European Union colleagues, is due in Athens on June 17 to meet Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras who is locked in stalled talks with the creditors who are holding back a 7.2-billion euro ($8.1 billion) installment until he imposes more austerity measures.
Faymman said Greece must meet its obligations but said there had to be some wiggle room for a country crushed by big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings on orders of the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
“I know there were a number of proposals, also from the (creditor) institutions, that I also don’t find in order,” Faymann said in the radio interview with the station ORF before departing for Athens.
“High joblessness, 30-40 percent (with) no health insurance and then raising VAT on medicines. People in this difficult situation cannot understand that,” he said, citing what Tsipras said were troika demands aimed at the most vulerable.
Faymann stepped into the middle of a battle between Tsipras and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker who denied Tsipras’ claims about the troika demands.
Faymann said the alternative was fighting fraud and ensuring all Greeks pay their fair share of taxes, which has never happened and as SYRIZA has failed to go after a single major tax cheat or, as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said, “crush the oligarchy.”
Faymann urged cooler heads. “I stand on the side of the Greek people who in this difficult position are being proposed more things detrimental to society,” he said.
He said he was confident he could support Juncker’s efforts to forge an agreement by using Austria as an example of a country where workers and pensioners get affordable health care.
He said both sides have to work to “avoid a catastrophe.” Asked whether Greece’s leaders would tone down their tough talk, “I assume that someone who is elected lives up to his responsibility.” [Reuters]