Greek PM Tsipras faces party revolt over bailout deal
BRUSSELS/ATHENS – Greece’s leftwing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a showdown with rebels in his own party on Tuesday furious at his capitulation to German demands for one of the most sweeping austerity packages ever demanded of a euro zone government.
Just hours after a deal that saw Greece surrender much of its sovereignty to outside supervision in return for agreeing to talks on an 86 billion euro bailout, doubts were already emerging about whether Tsipras would be able to hold his government together.
The terms imposed by international lenders led by Germany in all-night talks at an emergency summit obliged Tsipras to abandon promises of ending austerity.
Instead he must pass legislation to cut pensions, increase value added tax, clamp down on collective bargaining agreements and put in place quasi-automatic spending constraints. In addition, he must set 50 billion euros of public sector assets aside to be sold off under the supervision of foreign lenders and get the whole package through parliament by Wednesday.
Tsipras himself, elected five months ago to end five years of suffocating austerity, said he had “fought a tough battle” and “averted the plan for financial strangulation”.
But to get the accord through parliament by Wednesday’s deadline, he will have to rely on votes from pro-European opposition parties, raising big questions over the future of his government and opening the prospect of snap elections.
Leftwing rebels in the ruling Syriza party, and his junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks party, indicated they would not tear up election pledges that brought them to power in January.
“We cannot agree to that,” Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos told reporters after meeting Tsipras. “In a parliamentary democracy, there are rules and we uphold them.”
A meeting of the Syriza parliamentary group on Tuesday morning could see Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Deputy Labour Minister Dimistris Stratoulis sacked over their opposition to the bailout.
There may also be a battle over parliament speaker Zoe Constantinopoulou, an uncompromising leftwinger who also defied Tsipras over the bailout and who could create serious procedural obstacles for the package.
If the summit on Greece’s third bailout had failed, Athens would have been staring into an economic abyss with its banks on the brink of collapse and the prospect of having to print a parallel currency and exit the euro.
Instead it won conditional agreement to receive a possible 86 billion euros ($95 billion) over three years, provided its European partners are satisfied that the conditions are met.
“The agreement was laborious, but it has been concluded. There is no Grexit,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference after 17 hours of bargaining.
He dismissed suggestions that Tsipras had been humiliated even though the summit statement insisted repeatedly that Greece must now subject much of its public policy to prior agreement by bailout monitors.
“In this compromise, there are no winners and no losers,” Juncker said. “I don’t think the Greek people have been humiliated, nor that the other Europeans have lost face. It is a typical European arrangement.”
Euro zone finance ministers told officials to prepare options for bridge financing arrangements during talks on a bailout and a decision is expected by Wednesday.
Athens must meet a tight timetable for enacting unpopular reforms of value added tax, pensions, budget cuts, bankruptcy rules and an EU banking law that could be used to make big depositors take losses.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could recommend “with full confidence” that the Bundestag authorise the opening of loan negotiations once the Greek parliament has approved the entire programme and passed the first laws.
The Bundestag is due to vote on Greece on Friday.
Merkel’s allies defended the deal, with her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, saying Europe had won and Germany “was part of the solution — from the beginning until the end!” – Reuters