Greece says to support Rome declaration, calls for EU backing on labor reforms

Greece says to support Rome declaration, calls for EU backing on labor reforms

ATHENS - Reuters
Greece says to support Rome declaration, calls for EU backing on labor reforms

AFP photo

Greece will support a declaration marking the European Union’s 60th birthday but needs the bloc’s backing against International Monetary Fund demands on labor reforms, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said ahead of a Summit in Rome on March 24.

In a letter addressed to EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Tsipras called for a clear statement on whether the declaration would apply to Greece, as talks over a key bailout review hit a snag again.

“We intend to support the Rome Declaration, a document which moves in a positive direction,” Tsipras said.

“Nevertheless, in order to be able to celebrate these achievements, it has to be made clear, on an official level, whether they apply also to Greece. Whether, in other words, the European acquis is valid for all member states without exception, or for all except Greece.”

Earlier this week, Greece threatened not to sign the Rome declaration, demanding a clearer commitment protecting workers’ rights - an issue on which it is at odds with its international lenders who demand more reforms in return for new loans.

The disagreements among Athens, the EU and the IMF - which has yet to decide whether it will participate in the country’s current bailout - have delayed a crucial bailout review.

As leaders prepared for the summit, Greek ministers were negotiating with lenders’ representatives in Brussels pension cuts and labor reforms, including freeing up mass layoffs and on collective bargaining. The latest round of talks ended inconclusively late on March 23, according to Greek officials.

Athens agreed last month to adopt more measures to help convince the IMF to participate in its third, 86-billion euro bailout, as demanded by EU countries including Germany, which faces a national election later this year.

Greece has cut pensions 12 times since it signed up to its first bailout in 2010. It has also reduced wages and implemented labor reforms to make its market more flexible and competitive.

Tsipras’ leftist-led government came to power in 2015 promising to end austerity but signed up to a new bailout to keep the country in the eurozone. It was later re-elected on a mandate to protect workers’ and pensioners’ rights, but opinion polls show its popularity ratings sagging.

Tsipras said Greece had met its bailout terms on fiscal adjustment and implemented labor reforms, which were not in line with EU best practices.

“I ask for your support in order to protect, together, the right of Greece to return to the standards of the European social model,” he said.