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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La croisade politique des créanciers d’Athènes

by Rosa Moussaoui

The political crusade of Athens’ creditors

Translated Friday 10 July 2015, by Adrian Jordan

The IMF and EU demand that the Greek left carries out liberal changes with disastrous effects.

Athens’ creditors agree on at least one subject, more political than economic: forcing Syriza to surrender by slipping another social and fiscal noose around the necks of the Greek people. Wednesday evening in Brussels, on leaving a long emergency meeting with European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker and president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Greek head of government judged the basis of discussion proposed by the IMF and the European institutions to be inacceptable. They envisaged an accord over the release of a final segment of finance to allow Greece to honour its heavy repayment schedule over the course of the summer. “A country which has lost 25 percent of its GDP over the last five years cannot accept propositions such as reduction in social security payments to retirees on a low pension, nor an increase of 10 percent in VAT on electricity”, explained Alexis Tsipras. Besides these socially and financially injust measures, the creditors demand that Greece undertakes a big sale of public assets, by privatising the electricity network operator ADMIE (subsidiary of the public company PPC), the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, extensive coastal lands of the old Ellinikon airport, the Hellenic Petroleum Company and also the telephone operator OTE. Clearly, they expect the Greek left to renounce its commitments in order to carry out liberal changes which have already plunged the country into social, economic and humanitarian disaster. This is demanded in return for the release of 10.9 billion euros from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). Amounts which the Greek people will never actually see since they are essentially destined to repay debts owed to the IMF (1.6 billion euros in June) and, principally to the ECB (3.5 billion on 20 July and 3.2 billion on 20 August). “One cannot predict the consequences of a default vis-á-vis the IMF, unknown in a Eurozone country. That would be a real no-no. But above all, it is the consequences of default in relation to the ECB which would be unfathomable. The confidence in the single currency would be affected, with risk of instability well beyond the frontiers of the Eurozone”, warned Dimitris Sémétis, professor of economics at the University of the Aegean Sea. This expert considers the intransigence of the creditors to be “irresponsible” in a political standoff. “Their demands carry no kind of economic rationality”, he advised. “Primarily, they want to make Syriza pay the price of defying the European institutions, manipulate defeat by asphyxiation.”

Tsipras faces strong debate within Syriza. Alexis Tsipras has made promises, although difficult negotiation continues. On Friday the Greek prime minister must report to Greek parliamentarians on the state of discussions with the IMF and EU. For several weeks, his approach of seeking a viable global compromise allowing Greece to remain in the Eurozone has been validated by a small majority of the central committee of Syriza. This has not put an end to the heated debates across the left wing group since the conclusion of an initial accord with the Eurogroup on 20 February. Certain party members, at the heart of government, not just the left, consider some concessions demanded by the creditors to be too severe, in the area of privatisation for example. “I cannot see a high ranking member of Syriza pulling the rug from underneath Tsipras’ feet”, nonetheless assuaged MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis on Thursday.

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