ATHENS – Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist leader who has supported austerity measures for 4 1/2 years now says he doesn’t.
Venizelos, a former finance minister under a previous PASOK administration, now serves Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras in a government that has imposed big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings on orders of its international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
But with the lenders pressing for more conditions, Venizelos – who was elevated to Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister after going along with worker firings – says he’s had enough.
Reiterating Samaras’ opposition to more tough measures, he said no more would be implemented although he was confident a deal would be reached with the Troika which wants a prospective 2-3 billion euro hole closed in the 2015 budget.
The Troika reportedly wants more pension and salary cuts, tactics aimed at some of the most vulnerable sectors in Greece while tax cheats, politicians and the rich have largely escaped any sacrifice while making workers, pensioners and the poor pay for generations of wild overspending by New Democracy and PASOK.
Support for those measures has driven down support for New Democracy, which trails the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in polls while PASOK is on the edge of oblivion with 3-percent support as Venizelos seeks to create a new center-left party to be called Democratic Alignment, ending four decades of Socialist influence.
In comments during a session of the organizing committee for his new movement, Venizelos conceded that talks between Greece and the Troika were very tough but noted that this was so as they are taking place “on two levels — the financial and the political.”
He said he believed the Troika envoys would return to Athens and that an agreement would be reached by Dec. 15, paving the way for Samaras to seek an exit from the terms of what’s left of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two rescue packages, most of which run out this month. IMF monies are set to keep coming until 2016.
“We are awaiting the return of the Troika,” he said. “We have the ability to reach an agreement with the creditors before Christmas,” he added without explaining why he was optimistic after negotiations in Paris last month flopped.
Venizelos also rejected reports of Eurozone demands for a significant extension to Greece’s bailout, by at least six months or more.
“We are not talking about an extension of the program but a technical extension of procedures,” he said without explaining the difference or why an extension wouldn’t be an extension.