Wednesday 15 July 2015, 6:24am
Photo: Prime minister Alexis Tsipras has less than two days to convince the Greek parliament to pass tough new measures. (AFP: Louisa Gouliamaki)
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has defended a bailout deal struck at a Eurozone summit, saying although it had been "a bad night for Europe" and "imposed" on Greece, the agreement saved it from exiting the euro and must be implemented.
"I am fully assuming my responsibilities, for mistakes and for oversights, and for the responsibility of signing a text that I do not believe in, but that I am obliged to implement," Mr Tsipras said in an interview on public television.
Mr Tsipras said he had fought a battle to not cut wages and pensions, adding that the fiscal adjustment agreed to in the deal was milder than adjustments agreed to in the past.
"I am fully assuming my responsibilities, for mistakes and for oversights, and for the responsibility of signing a text that I do not believe in, but that I am obliged to implement."
Alexis Tripura's, Greek prime minister
The prime minister, who faces strong discontent within his Syria party over the deal, said Greece must stick to the deal and added that he intended to serve a full four-year term, ruling out early elections.
"I won't escape these responsibilities and will try to implement my political programme over a four-year period," he said.
"The hard truth is this one-way street for Greece was imposed on us."
With around 30 hard-line Syriza politicians threatening to oppose the latest tough reforms demanded by Greece's international creditors, Mr Tsipras faced the unenviable task of turning to pro-austerity opposition parties to push the deal through parliament by Wednesday.
In the agreement struck on Monday with the Eurozone to prevent Greece crashing out of the euro, the Greek parliament has less than 48 hours to pass sweeping changes to labour laws, pensions, VAT and taxes — measures tougher than those rejected in a referendum days ago.
Only then will the 18 other Eurozone leaders start negotiations over what Greece is to get in return: a three-year bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($127 billion), its third rescue program in five years.
It is a spectacular turnaround for a Syriza party voted into power in January promising to end years of cuts and recession in a country where a quarter of people are unemployed.
With much of the party up in arms, Mr Tsipras' loyalists were hard at work trying to convince sceptics that the tough cuts could be softened through alternative measures.
"I believe the people trust Tsipras and the government to remove these measures in the implementation phase, there can be policies that can cancel them out," interior minister Nikos Voutsis said.
But a number of prominent leftists were refusing to budge.
"I was elected on a platform of abolishing the bailout and its application laws," Syriza politician and parliament vice-president Despoina Haralambidou told Vima FM radio.
"The great majority of Syriza organisations oppose this agreement ... in terms of labour and pension issues this is worse than the last two bailouts."
Syriza's junior coalition partner said it would only support bailout measures agreed to before last weekend's summit in Brussels, which were less stringent.
"We are committed to voting for what we decided in the council of the political leaders and only that, no other measures that are imposed," Panos Kammenos, head of the right-wing Independent Greeks, told reporters.
White House hails 'credible' step
In Washington, the White House hailed the deal on Greece as "a credible step" on the long path to economic growth and debt sustainability in the hard-up country.
French president Francois Hollande insisted there was no Greek humiliation in the deal struck in Brussels.
"I cannot accept that people be humiliated ... Humiliation would have been to drive it [Greece] out of the Eurozone," he said in a televised interview.
Mr Tsipras has predicted "the great majority of Greek people will support" the deal, which he said includes help to ease Greece's huge burden of debt and revive its crippled banking system.
The last-ditch deal is aimed at keeping Greece's economy afloat amid fears its cash-starved banks were about to finally run dry and trigger its exit from the single currency.
But many ordinary Greeks are sceptical and the country's public servants announced plans to stage a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the first big stoppage since Mr Tsipras took power.
Faced with a Eurozone deeply distrustful of Athens after five months of tense meetings, the 40-year-old Mr Tsipras had to agree to demands that critics say rob Greece of financial independence.
"This agreement may pass with [opposition party] votes, but it will never pass the people," the head of a hard-line Syriza faction, energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, said.
"The government and the prime minister himself, even at the last minute, have the opportunity to change their mind and take it back, before the parliament decides."
If Greece passes it, Europe's next step would be to push the deal through several national parliaments, many in countries that are loath to afford Athens more help.
Germany's Bundestag is likely to vote on Friday, provided the Greek parliament rushes through the four new market-oriented laws by Wednesday.
Despite strong opposition, Mr Tsipras also yielded to a plan to park assets for privatisation worth up to 50 billion euros ($74 billion) in a special fund.
Some 25 billion euros ($37 billion) of the money in that fund will then be used to recapitalise Greece's cash-starved banks.
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