Greek PM Tsipras defends “difficult” choices over bailout

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defends “difficult” bailout proposals in front of parliament.

ATHENS, GREECE (JULY 11, 2015) (PARLIAMENT TV) – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the painful bailout proposals his leftwing government presented to parliament in the early hours of Saturday (July 11) morning, saying they were difficult measures but would help keep Greece in the euro zone.

Arguing that the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts was better on many points than the package rejected by voters in a referendum on Sunday (July 5), Tsipras insisted that he had won important concessions on restructuring Greece’s enormous public debt.

Speaking to deputies Tsipras admitted that mistakes had been made during the past months.

“To answer the question of whether we made mistakes during our five month period of negotiation, the only honest answer is to answer in the positive. Yes we made mistakes,” he said in a debate before parliament votes on endorsing the proposals.

He said Greece would meet 6.8 billion euros of payments on maturing bonds held by the European Central Bank due in July and August and said that the capital controls imposed on banks would not force the government to take new fiscal measures.

Tsipras praised the Greek people for voting with a majority “No” in last week’s referendum on the bailout package terms.

“Despite the closed banks, despite the huge difficulties that have woven their way into the social fabric, the Greek people made a difficult, brave and historic decision, which surprised most of us. They rejected the ultimatum. They didn’t give us a mandate to break (with the EU), it boosted our mandate in the negotiating process for an economically viable deal,” he said.

“I took the people’s “no” to mean a better deal as a choice of dignity for a large percentage of the Greek population, thousands of people that have suffered indignity and impoverishment, but I also took the no to mean a vote of confidence in the government and its efforts,” he added.

In the same debate the leader of Greece’s main opposition party, New Democracy said it would back attempts by the government to seal a deal with international creditors to stave off financial meltdown.

But, he said that there was a clear deadline which had to be kept to.

“Time is up on Sunday, by Sunday we need to have finished Mr Prime Minister. I can’t even imagine what the country would look like on Monday if we haven’t finished our deal and stop saying that we are being pressured and we don’t have the upper hand in the negotiating process, because you let time run out,” conservative New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis told parliament.

Greece’s legislature was on Friday debating a gameplan of tax and fiscal reform. The country’s leftist-led government is seeking lawmakers’ approval to use the blueprint as a basis of talks with international lenders for 53.5 billion euros in aid over the next three years.

Earlier, Greece’s finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, pledged to strive for maximum gains for Greeks in aid talks with lenders, saying a referendum in which voters rejected creditors’ demands had strengthened their standing in negotiations.

The Greek government is seeking support from the country’s fractious parliament to a plan for tax and fiscal reforms, seeking a 53.5 billion euro lifeline from lenders to keep the country afloat.

“If something doesn’t change on Monday, if we don’t have optimism, if we don’t all play our part towards this new day, and gain the confidence of Greeks, then we will have a huge problem,” Euclid Tsakalotos told a parliamentary debate called to rubber-stamp the tax package as a basis for talks.

Banks have been closed since June 29. They are unlikely to reopen until the ECB extends an emergency lifeline, keeping millions of Greeks subjected to capital controls.