Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament in no uncertain terms that a cash-for-reforms plan outlined by the European Commission is both “absurd” and “unrealistic.”
He added he hoped the proposal would be withdrawn and called on the troika of creditors to agree on an alternative deal, outlined by Athens.
“We need a solution,” said Tsipras. “Five years on, we need a conclusive solution both for Greece and Europe, a solution that will put an end to any talk of Greece leaving the euro for good. Talk that could work as a self-fulfilling prophecy of crisis.”
His speech was only the second in parliament since he assumed power in January 2015. It came a day after it was announced Greece would bundle and push back four key debt payments totalling 1.6 billion euros. They are now payable in one lump sum on June 30.
Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser at CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research), said the new date would give Greece some negotiating power.
“It gives a negotiating hand to the Greeks, because they are saying “we are not going to pay it unless we are sure that we are having some money coming through. But it also highlights the need for getting a solution as quickly as possible,” she said.
It’s the first time Athens has missed a bailout payment in five years.
Such a postponement is extremely rare and sends a powerful symbolic message that Greece does not want to be humiliated.
Alexis Tsipras is under pressure at home not to give into demands for more austerity measures of the kind he and his government were elected precisely to resist.
With the country on the verge of bankruptcy, fears of a Grexit from the euro zone are becoming more real by the day.
But, as euronews Athens correspondent Stamatis Giannisis reports:
“In spite of the harsh rhetoric against the country’s international creditors which to a great extent sought to appease his party’s hard liners, Prime Minister Tsipras appeared willing to continue the negotiations until a solution to Greece’s fiscal problems is found soon.”