Elected Greek decision-makers take office, ready for long-awaited showdown with the Eurozone.
Greece’s new leftist government is to hold its first talks with an EU dignitary, a day after announcing moves to roll back austerity measures that was demanded by the European Union.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will host the head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, on Thursday after his government scrapped key privatisation projects and began reversing many of the unpopular measures that underpin Greece’s $269bn bailout programme.
Syriza swept to power on Sunday pledging to end painful austerity after six years of recession, winning 149 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament, just two short of an absolute majority,
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Ahead of the visit, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, urged Athens to “respect… the rest of Europe”,
reiterating that cancelling Greece’s huge debt was not an option.
“Greece must comply with Europe,” Juncker said in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro on Thursday, stressing that “there is no question of cancelling the debt”.
“We respect the popular vote in Greece, but Greece must also respect others,” Juncker said.
“Tsipras promises that Greece will not accept austerity any more. The euro countries respond that there will be no more credit if Greece abandons its commitments,” he added.
Tsipras’ national salvation government said it was putting on hold plans to sell a majority stake in the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, and would also halt the privatisation of the top electricity and petroleum companies.
“Our people are suffering and demand respect… We must bleed to defend their dignity,” Tsipras told his ministers, largely a collection of academics who have never served in government.
The announcements sent the Athens stock market diving by more than 9.0 percent on Wednesday, with major banks tumbling by a quarter.
Syriza has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s $269bn bailout, saying it is no longer willing to bow to the “politics of submission”, in a clear swipe at creditors the EU and the International Monetary Fund.