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Greek PM appeals for unity ahead of parliament vote on debt deal

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Athens: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday called on his radical left Syriza party parliamentary group to remain united in critical times for the country, amid a string of anti-austerity strikes and protests.

The Greek leader addressed Syriza lawmakers in a closed-door meeting a few hours before a crucial vote scheduled for Wednesday midnight in the Greek parliament on the ratification of the debt deal reached with creditors in Brussels, Xinhua reported.

Tsipras earlier acknowledged that the agreement outlining a third bailout for Greece had tough terms, but insisted it was the only way to avert further default and a Grexit.

He called on Syriza ministers and lawmakers who voiced strong objections to the deal to submit “credible alternative solutions,” Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads a group of hardliners within Syriza, has openly suggested a return to the drachma, rejecting Monday’s agreement as humiliating and catastrophic. He is among quite a few prominent party members and ministers who have announced their intention to vote against the bill without clarifying in most cases whether they will also resign and hand over their seats.

Deputy Finance Minister Nadia Valavani was the first to formally submit her resignation from the ministry and parliament on Wednesday, denouncing the debt deal as “unsustainable”.

Parliament Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou also denounced the lenders’ “blackmail” methods.

Tsipras and the ruling two-partite coalition face a critical test on Wednesday night. According to Greek media reports, about 30 Syriza deputies may vote against the debt deal and the first set of taxation and pension system reforms.

Image by Telegraph
Image Source: Telegraph

Syriza holds 149 seats in the 300-member chamber. Junior coalition partners, the right-wing Independent Greeks who have also raised questions over the final draft deal, hold another 13 seats. Both parties came to power six months ago on a strict anti- bailout and anti-austerity agenda.

Regardless of the dissent within Syriza, the draft bill is expected to be approved with the support of the opposition pro-euro parties.

The country is in arrears to the International Monetary Fund since July 1, while banks have been closed since June 29 and will remain shut until at least July 17, according to a new finance ministry announcement on Wednesday. Cash withdrawals from ATMs remain restricted to a daily 60 euros ($65.75) per debit card.

As Greek officials and lenders work to disburse emergency aid in the coming days to enable a loan repayment to the European Central Bank on July 20, the government also faces a wave of strikes and protests over the deal.

The public sector trade union ADEDY called a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, disrupting public transport for a few hours. They arranged for a demonstration in front of parliament on Syntagma square. Pharmacists joined in by shutting down pharmacies for the day while the Communist Party called for a similar rally in another central Athens square. (IANS)

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Greek PM defends choice of harsh debt deal

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Athens: On the eve of the vote in the Greek parliament for the ratification of the agreement for the resolution of the Greek debt crisis which was reached in Brussels on Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended on Tuesday evening his choice of sealing a harsh deal rather than a disorderly default and Grexit.

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The government chose a painful third bailout that allows the country to avoid the risk of Grexit and move forward to restore growth, Tsipras said during an interview with the Greek national broadcaster ERT, Xinhua reported.

“I assume full responsibility for mistakes made and for signing a document that I do not believe in, but I must implement,” he said, arguing that it was the only way to avert a looming bankruptcy, the collapse of the banking system, a haircut on deposits and catastrophic consequences for Greece.

“I will not run away from my responsibilities,” Tsipras said, when asked whether he considered resignation so that a national unity government takes over, as local media reports have suggested.

Tsipras stressed that despite the tough terms the deal had potential and he was determined to try to materialise his government’s initial policy program over the next four years.

He accused Greece’s creditors of a “vindictive stance” after his initiative to call a referendum on their initial offer on June 27.

Tsipras expressed confidence that despite the prevalence of the pro austerity recipe this time, Europe’s course is not a one way road and it can change.

The Greek leader revealed that former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had conveyed to him a proposal by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble in spring for a commonly agreed Grexit.

For Greece there was never a Plan B, Tsipras underlined, arguing that a default and Grexit would have dramatic repercussions for Greek people.

Tsipras added that his government explored all options in contacts with the US, Russia and China, but Greece was not offered alternative concrete financial aid.

The priority on his mind today was to ensure that Greece will “reach the safety of a program” and that the economy is stabilised, he said, stressing that there was still no bridge deal and “some people are still trying to block it.”

Asked whether the Grexit risk has been left behind, the Greek leader warned that “it cannot be said with certainty before the deal is finalised and ratified by all sides.” (IANS)