ATHENS – Missing another deadline he had set himself Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said May 31 he’s going to keep pushing for a deal with international lenders as Greece goes broke fast.
Greece must pay the International Monetary Fund (IMF) some 300 million euros ($329.40 million) on June 5 or will face default and a possible exit from the Eurozone.
As he has since Greece got a four-month bailout extension on Feb. 20 but has failed to come up with a credible list of reforms since, Tsipras blamed the country’s creditors, the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that has put up 240 billion euros ($263.53 billion) since 2014.
The troika wants Tsipras, head of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party, to administer more of the reforms it forced on previous governments, bringing them down, but he’s resisting after showing signs of relenting.
Earlier in the week, Tsipras said a deal would be reached on May 31. He earlier had said the same almost every week for the previous few weeks but nothing has materialized and troika envoys said the two sides are still far off.
At stake immediately is a delayed 7.2-billion euro ($7.9 billion) installment the troika has put on hold until Tsipras acts.
“If we have not reached an agreement with our partners, it’s not because of our intransigence or incomprehensible positions from the Greek side,” Tsipras said in a column published on French daily Le Monde’s website.
“It is rather because of the obsession of some institutional representatives who insist on unreasonable solutions and are being indifferent to the democratic result of recent Greek elections,” he wrote, a shot at the IMF which has been hanging the toughest.
He said the Greek government had been ready to make compromises, for instance on privatizations, despite its party’s ideological opposition to them.
Tsipras also responded to criticism that Greece was holding up a deal with the lenders because it resisted pension reforms and insisted on restoring collective bargaining.
He said Greece has committed to integrating pension funds and cutting down on early retirement but opposed any further cuts in pensions which have been slashed by up to 48 percent in the last five years.
“Currently, 44.5 percent of pensioners receive a pension under the fixed threshold of relative poverty while approximately 23.1 percent of pensioners, according to data from Eurostat, live in danger of poverty and social exclusion,” he said.
“These numbers…cannot be tolerated – not simply in Greece but in any civilized country.”
Tsipras on May 31 had a conference call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has put up much of the bailout loans and with Socialist French President Francois Hollande, who has offered almost no help to Greece.
The call, the second in three days, lasted 35 minutes, “went very well” and it was agreed that a deal must be completed very soon, the officials said, essentially repeating what they say every time it happens although nothing does.
The German government described the conversation as constructive but gave no further details.