Defiant Greek PM sets up EU clash with bailout rejection, austerity rollback

Mon Feb 9, 2015 6:39am EST
 
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras laid out plans on Sunday to dismantle Greece's "cruel" austerity program, ruling out any extension of its international bailout and setting himself on a collision course with his European partners.

In his first major speech to parliament since storming to power last month, Tsipras rattled off a list of moves to reverse reforms imposed by European and International Monetary Fund lenders: from reinstating pension bonuses and cancelling a property tax to ending mass layoffs and raising the mininum wage back to pre-crisis levels.

Showing little intent to heed warnings from EU partners to stick to commitments in the 240-billion-euro ($272 billion) bailout, Tsipras said he intended to fully respect campaign pledges to heal the "wounds" of the austerity that was a condition of the money.

Greece would achieve balanced budgets but would no longer produce unrealistic primary budget surpluses, he said, a reference to requirements to be in the black excluding debt repayments.

"The bailout failed," the 40-year-old leader told parliament to applause. "We want to make clear in every direction what we are not negotiating. We are not negotiating our national sovereignty."

In a symbolic move that appeared to take direct aim at Greece's biggest creditor, Tsipras finished off his speech with a pledge to seek World War Two reparations from Germany.

Tsipras ruled out an extending the bailout beyond Feb. 28 when it is due to end, but said he believed a deal with European partners could be struck on a "bridge" agreement within the next 15 days to keep Greece afloat.

"The new government is not justified in asking for an extension," he said. "Because it cannot ask for an extension of mistakes."   Continued...

 
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers his first major speech in parliament in Athens February 8, 2015. REUTERS/ Alkis Konstantinidis