Greek leader optimistic after talks with EU debt supervisor
BRUSSELS - The Associated Press
AP PhotoGreek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was upbeat Wednesday that his country can find a way to ease its bailout loans after talks with the main European Union agency supervising its finances.
With all Europe waiting to see how Greece proposes to renegotiate its massive bailout loans, Tsipras and his finance minister are on a whirlwind tour of the region to discuss possible solutions. Tsipras wants easier terms of repayment on the 240 billion euros (currently $271 billion) in bailout loans and to relax the austerity budget measures the country has been required to make.
"I'm very optimistic after these discussions that we are in a good way," Tsipras said, after meeting the presidents of the EU's three main institutions. "We don't have already an agreement but we are in a good direction to find a viable agreement."
Tsipras said his anti-austerity government would respect the will of Greek voters as well as the EU's rules.
"We want to re-correct this framework, not to smash this framework," he said.
In a short trip to Brussels before heading to France, Tsipras was welcomed at the European Commission, one of the three main institutions overseeing Greece's finances, by President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Making light of the tension and expectation surrounding their meeting, the two men clasped hands merrily and marched off swinging their arms, without talking to reporters.
Tsipras is riding a wave of popular discontent in Greece over the austerity measures demanded by the creditors, which include eurozone states like Germany as well as the International Monetary Fund.
He has rejected discussing the country's debt with the so-called troika - a team of technical experts representing the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF. Instead, his left-wing government has sought to hold talks with the leaders of those institutions and governments.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, commended Tsipras for traveling around Europe in the hunt for a solution, and he urged those who have taken money out of the country in recent years to start helping rebuild the Greek economy.
On the eve of their talks, Juncker underlined that the EU would show flexibility in helping Athens deal with its debts but ruled out wholesale policy changes.
Meanwhile, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt before holding talks Thursday with German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin.
Varoufakis said he and Draghi had "a very fruitful discussion" about the rules and constraints of monetary union.
"I had the opportunity to present to him our government's utter and unwavering determination that it can't possibly be business as usual in Greece," he said, regarding both Greece's underlying economic troubles and the bailout program, which he said had contributed to "a major humanitarian crisis."