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25th Aug 2019

Tsipras gets cross-party backing before euro summit

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will present his new proposal at an emergency euro summit on Tuesday. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

In the wake of a resounding No by Greek voters to the reforms asked by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, Alexis Tsipras rallied on Monday (6 July) the main Greek parties ahead of the next round of negotiations.

The Greek PM agreed with German chancellor Angela Merkel that he would present a new proposal for an bailout agreement at the euro summit Tuesday evening (7 July).

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After a six-hour long meeting with president Prokopis Pavlopoulos and party leaders, he obtained the backing of four parties from the left and right.

Only the communist party refused to join what amounts to a national unity forced by the 61-percent vote in favour of the government's position at Sunday's referendum.

"The government assumes the responsibility of continuing the negotiations. And each political leader will contribute, respectively, within the framework of his/her institutional and political role," leaders from Pasok (socialists), ANEL (nationalists), To Potami (centre) and New Democracy (right) said in a common statement.

The meeting was preceded by the resignation of finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos.

A deputy minister for international economy, Tsakalotos was Tsipras' chief negotiator with the creditors.

Varoufakis' resignation was seen as a sign that Tsipras wants to ease tensions with Greece's partners, as Varoufakis had become a antagonistic figure inside the Eurogroup.

"He was not the problem," the minister for administrative reforms George Katrougalos told EUobserver, adding that Greece's "partners will not be able anymore to say that we do not want a compromise."

But despite a 61-percent win at the referendum and a backing from the main parties, the negative reactions of his partners and the worsening situation of the Greek banking system put him in an uncertain position.

"An agreement or Grexit', summarised centre-right Kathimerini newspaper on Monday, while I Avgi, Syriza's newspaper welcomed the "61% against austerity".

"We were expecting a tough initial reaction to the referendum result, but both side have an interest in finding a common ground," Katrougalos said.

"We believe that reason and Europe's democratic traditions will win over," Katrougalos said adding that "what is essential is an agreement with a debt relief".

The emergency Eurogroup meeting and eurozone leaders summit on Tuesday will be crucial to see the ratio of power.

Despite hardline positions expressed after the result of the referendum, "we can see the level of dissent" among Greece's creditors, Jens Bastian, an analyst for the Athens-Based MacroPolis website, told EUobserver.

"It will become even bigger," Bastian said, noting that French Finance minister Michel Sapin said his government was ready to consider debt relief.


"It is the first time a Eurogroup member takes the line of the International Monetary Fund," Bastian observed.


In the meantime, the most pressing issue for the Greek government was the situation of the banks.

"Our immediate priority is to quickly restore our banking system’s functioning and our economic stability," Tsipras said Sunday after the referendum results.

"An increase of the liquidity is necessary, otherwise the economy is not viable," minister George Katrougalos said, calling the European Central Bank (ECB) to take an initiative.

While the Greek central bank continues to ask for an increase of the ceiling of the Emergency Liquidity Assistance, some ECB governors are pleading for a reduction of the programme.

As a consequence, the ELA ceiling will probably remain unchanged as long as an agreement is not reached between Greece and its creditors.

In any case, the deadline for the programme is 20 July when Greece has to repay €3.5 billion to the ECB.

A Greek default on this payment would automatically put an end to the liquidity assistance.

"That is the real deadline to find an agreement," Jens Bastian said.

"The ECB took a political decision when it decided not to increase the ceiling and it will continue on the same political path," economist and Syriza MP Costas Lapavistas told this website.

"Greece is under enormous foreign pressure," Lapavistas said, "but the liquidity problem and the ECB repayment will force the issue."

Extension of bank holiday

On Monday the government decided to extend for a few days the bank holiday first imposed until Tuesday.

In Athens people continued to queue at ATM machines to withdraw their daily €60 allowance, even if the actual limit is €50 due to a shortage of €20 notes - when ATMs are not empty.

After a week of capital control, the euros are still circulating. In shops and tavernas, tills are still well provided in coins and notes of every value and foreign tourists bring fresh cash into the circuit.

Economy minister Giorgos Stathakis told the BBC that banks could collapse if no decision is taken in the next 48 hours.

"All banks are not at the same level," a EU source told EUobserver suggesting there were concerns about a possible collapse.

But the source said there was no emergency.

"The money is there."

"Some companies repatriated money from foreign accounts to Greek banks to pay their employees. And then the money goes to other banks," the source said.

"Money is under the beds" and will continue to circulate for a while event with no ELA increase, the source assured.

But for many other business, who pay their employees or are paid by clients through processes that requires a bank deposit, the situation is getting more difficult each day.

Clues at Athens airport

And at the cash machines, after a week of capital control, the crucial issue now is "the availability of real bank notes", Jens Bastian said.

The Bank of Greece can only print €5 and €10 euro notes and would need an external supply of €20 and €50 notes.

"The issue is to bring into the country huge amounts of banks notes," as this was done in 2012 when planes brought cash from Italy, said Bastian, who was at the time a member of the EU Task Force for Greece.

"It would be surprising if they did not do it again," Bastian noted, adding that such a initiative would be within the ECB mandate.

"We will have to look at the Athens airport's activity."

European Commission takes hard line on Greece

The Greek vote has widened the gap between Athens and its creditors, according to the European Commission, indicating that the referendum was all but irrelevant as the same problems remain.

Varoufakis resigns ahead of new EU talks

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced the decision to step down on his blog, saying creditors had indicated his presence would make talks harder.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

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