Don’t look now, but in his first EU summit, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had more hopeful rhetoric about breaking an impasse that seemed extremely difficult to overcome following a meeting between Greece’s and Germany’s Finance Ministers, Yanis Varoufakis and Wolfgang Schaeuble, Kathimerini reported.
We have made “some significant steps,” Tsipras said at a press conference after the summit. Using more balanced language than Varoufakis, Tsipras spoke of the duality of fulfilling the mandate that swept him into office a few weeks ago with Greece’s obligations as a EU member, Kathimerini wrote.
Kathimerini reported that Tsipras’ conversation with Merkel was less than icy. “I hope we will have good cooperation despite the difficulties,” she said. “I hope so,” he said, smilingly, in reply.
The Associated Press also wrote the following:
Tsipras and his radical-left SYRIZA party blame the current policies of budget austerity for choking Greece’s economy.
Despite a recent modest return to growth, the Greek economy is around 25 percent smaller than it was before the crisis and poverty and unemployment have swelled.
Greece is lumbered by huge debts, which stand at around 175 percent of GDP, and it has repayments this year that it will have trouble meeting without outside help.
Tsipras wants Greece’s current bailout deal, which runs out at the end of the month, to be scrapped and replaced by a new one — a “bridging program,” according to Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
But a group of Eurozone countries, led by Germany, insists that discussions can only proceed if the current bailout program is extended.
Without the bailout’s financial support, Greece faces bankruptcy — and a possible exit from the Eurozone, a development that would damage Greece’s economy, at least in the short-term, and throw global financial markets into turmoil.
Tsipras said his government was willing to launch further structural reforms “against tax evasion, fighting against corruption, fighting against a state based on clientelism.”
Those ambitions are likely to be welcomed by the more skeptical members of the Eurozone. The question is whether it is enough to ensure a deal.
The European creditors, particularly Germany, are hesitant to give in to Greece too easily for fear of setting a precedent for countries that run up excessive debts. The 240 billion euros (currently $272 billion) in rescue loans Greece is getting come from taxpayers in other countries.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said “Europe’s magic is to always find solutions even when everyone believes it’s impossible.”
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