Tsipras declares victory as Greece dodges financial ruin

Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:13pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By George Georgiopoulos and Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared victory on Saturday after agreeing a conditional financial rescue deal with Europe and despite making big concessions to avert a banking collapse within days.

With his left-wing leadership pilloried by German conservatives, Tsipras insisted that Friday night's last-minute agreement canceled austerity commitments and dispensed with the "troika" - European and IMF inspectors loathed by many Greeks.

"Yesterday we took a decisive step, leaving austerity, the bailouts and the troika behind," he said in a televised statement to the Greek nation. "We won a battle, not the war. The difficulties, the real difficulties ... are ahead of us."

After often ill-tempered negotiations in Brussels, Greece secured a four-month extension to euro zone funding, which will avert bankruptcy and a euro exit, provided it comes up with promises of economic reforms by Monday.

Had no deal been reached, some officials had feared panic when Greek banks reopened on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend. But Athens said agreement at the meeting of euro zone finance ministers should calm Greek savers who thought capital controls might be imposed as a prelude to leaving the euro.

A source at the European Central Bank also ruled out restrictions on savers' right to withdraw their deposits, aiming to dismiss expectations that - as euro zone member Ireland put it - the Greek banking system might have gone "belly up".

Tsipras and his Syriza party won power last month on promises to end Greece's EU/IMF bailout program and cooperation with the troika - European Commission, ECB and IMF officials who have monitored Greece's compliance with its austerity and reform commitments.

However, Athens has been forced to accept a conditional extension of the bailout at the insistence of Eurogroup members led by Germany. It must also still deal with the troika, albeit renamed in the Brussels agreement as "the three institutions".   Continued...

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends a cabinet meeting at the parliament building in Athens, February 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Kostas Tsironis