Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Juncker rebukes Tsipras on parliament speech

  • Juncker - the commission president is seen as sympathetic towards Greece's situation (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Sunday (7 June) publicly rebuked Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, accusing him of not presenting the whole truth during a key parliamentary address on Friday and of foot-dragging on a promised reform plan.

Speaking in Bavaria ahead of a G7 meeting, Juncker hit back at Tsipras' speech before MPs in Athens saying that a proposal presented in Brussels last Wednesday by Greece's creditors was a take-or-it-leave-it deal to release €7.2bn in bailout money.

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He accused the Greek side of not being "capable" of negotiating the text "although I would have welcomed this" and admitted that he refused to speak to Tsipras on Saturday morning.

Juncker said Tsipras had promised to present an "alternative proposal by Thursday evening, then he promised to present it by Friday, he wanted to speak by phone to me on Saturday but I didn't have this alternative proposal yet".

Any such proposal has to be studied before a "formal position" can be taken, said Juncker, adding he hoped all sides would be able to discuss an Athens draft compromise by Wednesday, when EU leaders will be in Brussels for a Latin America Summit.

Tsipras on Friday outright rejected the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank’s list of proposed reforms Greece needed to secure the bailout money.

He told MPs the proposal “presented by Jean-Claude Juncker" was a “bad negotiation trick” and that he hoped it would be “withdrawn”.

It was the latest in a long line of setbacks and false starts in negotiations between Athens and its creditors since the Greece’s left-wing government was elected to power in January on the back of promise to end austerity.

The politics around the discussions have become more acute however as Greece is running out of cash to pay every-day bills and its current bailout expires at the end of this month.

Disappointed

Reacting specifically to the speech, Juncker said he was a “little bit disappointed” by it.

“He was presenting the offer by the three institutions as a take-it-or-leave-it offer. That was not the message given to him. He was presenting the proposals of the three institutions as being mine and being mine exclusively. He knows full well that this is not the case. And he knows perfectly well that I was ready to discuss on the main points of disagreement.”

He also said that Tsipras "did not tell parliament" that they had discussed the issue of pensions - a red line for the Greeks.

Juncker said he did not have a “personal problem” with Tsipras and that he is his “friend”, but “friendship, in order to maintain it, has to observe some minimum rules”.

His words have particular resonance as the commission president is considered the most sympathetic of the negotiators towards the Greek situation, being the first to speak of a humanitarian crisis in the country and to stress the social aspects of any deal.

Juncker said he was against a Greek exit of the euro whose consequences are "unforeseeable" but that this statement should not be interpreted as meaning that he can "pull a rabbit out of a hat" or that a solution can be found without "further efforts".

EU Council president Donald Tusk, for his part, said the negotiations were about politics and morals.

"It is not true that debtors are always moral and creditors always immoral," said the Polish politician.

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