Friday, February 6, 2015

EU tour brings little hope for Syriza leaders

Greece's anti-austerity leaders were back in Athens Friday vowing to keep their promise to renegotiate the country's huge loans despite having little to show after a European tour aimed at winning allies to their cause.....

"We are a sovereign country, we have democracy, we have a contract with our people, we will honor this agreement," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his hard-left Syriza party in their first meeting Thursday since the January 25 elections.

In a remarkable show of support, thousands of people then gathered outside parliament, standing silently in Syntagma Square, the scene of violent anti-austerity protests in recent years.

"We have nothing to lose," said Stavroula Drakopoulou, a 55-year-old teacher. An estimated 500 people also gathered in Greece's second city, Thessaloniki.

Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis visited Paris, London, Rome, Frankfurt, Brussels and Berlin in the past six days to try to win over EU leaders to their plan to ease the crushing burden of Greece's debts.

The tour began well but ended with ­German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble restating their opposition to debt relief and expressing deep skepticism over the Greek ­government's proposals to restructure its EU-IMF loans.

"We even didn't agree to disagree," a downbeat Varoufakis told reporters after talks with Schaeuble in Berlin Thursday.

Meanwhile Tsipras must prepare for his first European summit in Brussels on February 12, which will be his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Finance ministers from all 19 eurozone countries will gather the day before to discuss the stand-off over Greece.

In a sign of the pressure Athens is under to reconcile its domestic promises with its obligations to foreign lenders, the announcement of the government's legislative agenda was delayed from Saturday to Sunday evening.

Syriza is the first anti-austerity party to take power in Europe, and its opening move to halt key privatization projects spooked the markets and raised anew fears of Greece being forced out of the eurozone.

The government also said it would no longer cooperate with the hated "troika" of auditors from the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF who are charged with enforcing the terms of Athens' 240 billion euro ($275 billion) bailout.

  Source: AFP -

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