• Alternate FM Chountis to ANA-MPA: Greek government is not bluffing

    ANA/MPA—Alternate Foreign Minister Nikos Chountis said that “in any case the Greek government does not bluff. We have said that we have pledged before the Greek people to implement our programme” in an interview with ANA-MPA on Friday commenting on the result of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ meeting with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin on Thursday.

    Chountis noted: “We have said that we will seek the best solution for the debt in the interest of the economy and of the country and we will seek the best solution to these problems on European level as well as changes in Europe so that we will be in the position to play its role and to come closer to the citizens…We are waiting for specific answers on how the problem will be dealt with taking into account the Greek people’s mandate. They can’t ask from us to step back from our commitments and we know very well the rules of the EU. Consequently, Mr. Schaeuble and Germany must play their role within the framework of a EU with equal members.

     

    Asked on the presence of US Secretary of State delegation in Athens, Chountis underlined “I think that on their part the US want to have a better look to our proposals, there were also contacts at ministers’ level, but according to what they have said they see the problem that exists in Europe. Whereas the US during the crisis or after the crisis followed different policies to reset the economy and the society, the crisis in Europe has not ended.”

     

    Finally, referring to the developments in Ukraine, Chountis noted: “Our opinion, an opinion of principles, is the Ukrainian crisis to be dealt with in a political way and the responsibilities to be allocated. In parallel we believe, as it has already been proven that the sanctions on Russia on political and economic level, were fruitless and was beneficial neither for Europe nor for the Greek economy. From that standpoint, we want to undertake initiatives if possible, in order the EU to be able to move on this line and I believe that in this sense Europe’s honour will be saved.”

  • Greek government to present its policy statements on Sunday afternoon

    ANA – MPA — The government will start presenting its policy statements on Sunday at 18:00 (local time), it was announced after the end of the first government council meeting on Thursday.
    During the meeting, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras briefed ministers on the meetings he held with the leaders of France, Italy and Cyprus and on his talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, and his positive impressions, government sources said.

    The council also evaluated ECB’s move on Wednesday and discussed the views of ministers on the policy statements which will start on Sunday with a speech by Tsipras and are expected to be completed on Tuesday night.

    Concerning today’s meeting between Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, the same sources said the government will be briefed extensively by the minister and Deputy Minister of International Economic Relations, Efklidis Tsakalotos after they return from Berlin.

    At any rate, the source said, “We keep the positive elements from this meeting, we know there are disagreements but we are optimistic that there will be a mutually beneficial solution.”
    According to information, the government council will convene again on Saturday.

  • Greek gov’t says ECB’s action “a political pressure”‏

    ANA/MPA—Greek government sources on Thursday said that a surprise move by the European Central Bank, late on Wednesday, to stop accepting Greek state bonds as collateral from February 11, was “an action of political pressure to rapidly sign an agreement” and referred to a Bloomberg report saying that the ECB’s move will have very little impact on Greek banks.

    The banking system is fully safeguarded, the sources said, noting that Greek banks’ liquidity is fully safeguarded from the Emergency Liquidity Assistsance mechanism. The same sources added that ELA’s lending ability was raised by 10 billion euros. The government reassured it was focused on finding a solution which will be beneficial both for Greece and its European partners. Such a solution could come only through continuing negotiations in the framework of EU rules, the need to end a human crisis in Greece and restarting its economy.

    The sources said that the government guaranteed to the Greek people it would ensure both the economic and social stability in the country and that it was determined to honor a fresh election result. Hellenic Democracy does not intend to blackmail anyone but it will not be blackmailed also.

  • Police find ‘Group of Popular Fighters’ statement claiming responsibility for Israeli embassy attack

    ANA/MPA—Police early on Wednesday found a statement claiming the responsibility for the armed attack against the Embassy of Israel in a garbage bin in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni.

    According to the police, the responsibility was claimed by the “Group of Popular Fighters”, which in the past had carried out an attack against the German ambassador’s residence in the Athens suburb of Halandri. Police are looking into the 19-page statement, the content of which has not been yet made known.

    According to the information available so far, the claim of responsibility was found after 01.00 on Wednesday morning following a phone call by an unknown individual to the Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper.

    The newspaper alerted the police saying they received the call a while before 9 in the evening. Newspaper staff went to the spot indicated by the unknown caller, searched the garbage bin in the area but could not find anything.

    The Counter-terrorism squad was then alerted. The police officers rushed to the area and after several hours they found a data stick in a garbage bag inside a bin. The findings were initially taken to the crime lab for processing while the data stick was then handed over to the Counter-terrorism squad.

  • FinMin Varoufakis says talks with Draghi ‘very fruitful’

    ANA/MPA—Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Wednesday said he was “encouraged about the future” following “constructive talks” he had in Frankfurt with the president of European Central Bank, Mario Draghi. The Greek Finance Minister met ECB’s head to ask for support for Greek banks.

    “We had very fruitful talks,” the Greek FinMin told reporters after the meeting, reassuring that their communication was “excellent”, a fact offer “strong encouragement for the future”.

  • We have not changed our stance on Greek debt, gov’t spokesman Sakellaridis says

    ANA/MPA—The government’s firm position is that the Greek debt is not sustainable and that is the reason why its write-off is required, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Tuesday told ANT1 TV.

    Sakellaridis stressed that the government has not changed its stance, which may have disappointed some people.

    He underlined that the write-off can occur in several technical methods and one of them is “the technical method presented by (Finance Minister Yanis) Varoufakis to British investors”. However, he said, the government is concerned with rendering the debt sustainable, to help the Greek society breathe.

    Referring to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ contacts with Europeans, Sakellaridis said that the government has strengthened Greece’s negotiation position.

    As for the candidate President of Republic, he said that the government’s proposal will soon be announced. “When the prime minister returns and the parliament opens, there will be an announcement of the candidate and we will smoothly proceed with the election of the President of Republic,” Sakellaridis noted.

    Regarding the possibility of a meeting between the Greek prime minister and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said that the Greek side has not made any moves yet. “This has not been finalised, the Greek side has not done any moves in order to plan a meeting between Tsipras and Merkel. If there is such a meeting, you will be informed. It is a long time until February 12,” he concluded.

  • FinMin Varoufakis to FT: Greece will opt for debt swap, rather than writeoff

    ΑΝΑ – ΜPA — Greece will not call for a writeoff of its debt but request a “menu of debt swaps,” including two types of new bonds, new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told the Financial Times (FT) on Monday.

    According to the daily, Greece “unveiled proposals on Monday for ending the confrontation with its creditors by swapping outstanding debt for new growth-linked bonds, running a permanent budget surplus and targeting wealthy tax-evaders.”

    Varoufakis told the FT that the two types of bonds would include bonds indexed to nominal economic growth and replacing European rescue loans, on the one hand, and “perpetual bonds”, replacing Greek bonds owed by the European Central Bank, on the other. The proposal, he told the FT, would be more acceptable to other countries who objected to any plans for a “haircut”.

    “What I’ll say to our partners is that we are putting together a combination of a primary budget surplus and a reform agenda,” he was quoted as saying, adding that “I’ll say, ‘Help us to reform our country and give us some fiscal space to do this, otherwise we shall continue to suffocate and become a deformed rather than a reformed Greece’.”

    Varoufakis said the government would maintain a primary budget surplus – after interest payments – of 1 to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product, even if this meant Syriza, the leftwing party that dominates the ruling coalition, would not fulfil all the public spending promises on which it was elected.

    In terms of tax collection, the finance minister said the government would target wealthy Greeks who had not paid their fair share of taxes during the nation’s six-year economic slump, which he described as “going for the head of the fish, then (going) down to the tail.”

    According to official sources, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to announce the government’s policy programme on the weekend and the details of their economic plan to their EU partners before the end of February.

    “Whatever our partners think about our being from the radical left, we’re serious about reform, serious about being good Europeans and serious about listening. The only thing we shall not retreat from is our view that the current unenforceable programme [agreed with our creditors] needs to be rethought from scratch,” Varoufakis was quoted as saying.

    According to the FT, Varoufakis is on a European tour that is aimed at winning support for a renegotiation of the 245bn euro bailout programme that began in 2010 with emergency help from the EU and International Monetary Fund.

    The minister said Greece hoped to secure a four-month “bridging programme”, to stretch from now until June 1, under which the ECB would promise to keep Greece’s financial system afloat by continuing to supply liquidity on favourable terms.

    Rather than ask for 7bn euros in aid that was to have been paid to Greece last year if it had met fiscal policy and structural reform conditions set by its creditors, the government would request only 1.9bn euros, the FT said, equivalent to the profits earned by the ECB from its purchases of Greek government bonds after the 2010 rescue, according to Varoufakis.

    “Our mandate gives us a right to do one little thing – to have a few short weeks to propose our own ideas to the ECB, the eurozone partners and the IMF,” he was quoted as saying. “The notion that previous Greek governments signed on the dotted line on programmes that haven’t worked, and that we should be obliged to just follow that line unswervingly, is a challenge to democracy.”

  • FinMin Varoufakis concludes meeting with Eurogroup chairman

    ANA-MPA — The meeting between Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and visiting Eurogroup President Jeroen  Dijsselbloem at the ministry of finance in Athens ended on Friday afternoon.

    Varoufakis said that the meeting was held in an excellent atmosphere and that it will serve as a basis for a good cooperation. He said that he briefed the Eurogroup president on the priorities of the new Greek government and underlined its determination to proceed with reforms. He noted that the Greek state has continuity “but we will not accept the continuity of deflation and unsustainable debt.”

    Dijsselbloem said that there is mutual interest in the recovery of the Greek economy, noting that it is important that the progress made so far will not go to waste and pointed out that “we are ready to move toward the future together.”

  • EU’s Katainen urges Greece to stick to reforms

    ANA/MPA—European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen urged Greece’s new government on Friday to stick to the reforms agreed with international lenders, but signaled Athens could be offered more time to reach certain goals, Reuters news agency reported.

    “We expect them to fulfill all the commitments they have promised to do,” Katainen told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in English, adding that the European Commission had to make sure all member states were treated equally and agreements were respected.

    But Katainen did not rule out extending the deadline for carrying out reforms.

    “I have not said that the deadlines should not be extended. I simply said that the sooner Greece implements reforms, the sooner new jobs will be created,” he said.

    The Finnish EU commissioner, who is responsible for employment and economic growth, said he hoped Greece and its euro zone partners would find a compromise.

  • FinMin: Gov’t will propose reduction of primary surpluses

    ANA/MPA—The Greek government will propose the reduction of the primary surpluses to 1-1.5 percent of GDP, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told New York Times in an interview.

    Our task, the minister said, is not to get the remaining 7 billion euro loan tranche from the current programme, which would be merely “kicking the can down the road” but to “rethink the whole programme.”

    “All we’re asking is for,” he said, “is an opportunity to put together a proposal that will minimize the costs of Greece’s loan agreement and give this country a chance to breathe again after policies that created massive social depravity.”

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