ATHENS — A government official says Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has told senior aides to “forget about elections or a referendum,” whatever the outcome of the country’s talks with creditors, amid signs he’s moving toward a distasteful compromise that would break some of his campaign pledges.
The official said Tsipras told four senior ministers that his government, elected last January, has a fresh popular mandate and that “people have trusted us to take crucial decisions and manage the difficulties.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, on June 13 quoted Tsipras as saying his government would deal with an agreement with creditors “however difficult the compromise.”
Alternatively, “if Europe insists on a split and the continuation of subservience,” it would fight “for dignity and national sovereignty,” an indication he wouldn’t cross some red lines he has drawn, notably creditor demands for more pension cuts and for him to give up his plans to restore the minimum wage and collective bargaining rights for workers.
Greece agreed on the resumption of talks June 12 under intense pressure from the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which has put up 240 billion euros ($270.34 billion) in two bailouts but is holding back a 7.2-billion euro ($8.1 billion) installment until Tsipras imposes more tough conditions.
Greece on Feb. 20 got a four-month bailout extension on the promise to present a credible list of reforms but has given a bunch of incomplete outlines amid troika criticism the government is being misled by amateur gamblers as the country goes broke, is unable to borrow from the markets, is seeing tax revenues plummet and billions of euros fleeing bank accounts as depositors fear a default and Eurozone exit.
Greece also at the end of the month must pay the IMF 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) in a series of bundled installments after deliberately missing a 300-million euro ($337.87 million) payment on June 5 as talks remained stalled and as dissenters in Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA urged him to walk away and leave Greece broke and ejected from the Eurozone.
Tsipras said it won’t be easy to reach a deal, especially now that the EU has set a June 18 deadline, another in a long line of deadlines that have previously been ignored, broken and pushed back, although this time the lenders say they are really, really, really serious and not bluffing.
Tsipras reportedly told his party lawmakers and officials that if there is an offer on the table – even one that represents a “difficult compromise” – and that paves the way for Greece to exit the crisis and put the bailout agreements behind, it is the government’s duty to sign it.
Tsipras for weeks has been predicting a deal “any day now,” despite contradictory views from the troika who said the two sides are far apart, as indicated on June 11 when the IMF withdrew its envoys back to Washington, saying the government was intransigent.
The indications are that Tsipras is willing to give up a lot, but not everything, if the troika will allow debt relief – a prospect rejected many times before, especially by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has put up much of the bailout loans but insisted in return on harsh austerity measures Tsipras opposes.
“The party’s reaction will depend on whether the possible agreement includes a commitment to the debt issue,” a party official who preferred to remain anonymous told Kathimerini. “It is not enough to have a vague, verbal reference. It has to be a binding framework with a specific timetable and intermediate steps.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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