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Samaras Seeks Greek Debt Relief

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants Greece to walk away from much of its debt
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants Greece to walk away from much of its debt

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he will insist that the country’s international lenders allow a debt cut if a primary surplus is a achieved for 2013, and that he wants it done before the May elections for European Parliament.
Two bailouts of $325 billion from international lenders have failed to right the economy, although Samaras said a recovery is in sight beginning next year and that Greece can begin to wean itself off the aid that’s been propping up the economy for 3 1/2 years.
In an interview with Sunday Kathimerini, he said the Troika of the the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European  Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) should honor its agreement to allow debt relief if the primary surplus target is reached.
Samaras said he wants them to write down the debt, the same way a previous government did in 2011, stiffing private investors and Disapora bondholders with 74 percent losses.
The key for Greece is whether the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, agrees in its April report whether Greece has hit the primary surplus benchmark. That does not include interest on the debts, the cost of social security, state enterprises, city and town administrations or some military expenditures, which otherwise would show a huge deficit still remains.
Samaras said Athens would “insist” that a decision on further debt relief is taken in the spring rather than being delayed until after May’s European elections. “What method is chosen to lighten our debt load can be chosen immediately afterward. But this outstanding issue has to be resolved in the spring. I believe our partners accept this.”
Samaras said he wants a debt relief deal before the European Parliament elections which the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said will repudiate the ruling coalition of Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner, the PASOK Socialists.
Tsipras said if he came to power he would try to re-do the terms of the bailouts that came with attached harsh austerity measures and would not repay the debt in full – or at all. He has not offered any alternative to the rescue aid that is all that is keeping the Greek economy from collapsing.
Samaras will have a hard sell. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country foots much of the bailout, has ruled out any chance that Greece will be allowed to walk away from part of what it owes, which would leave it to taxpayers in the other 16 Eurozone countries to pick up the bill for generations of wild overspending by alternating administrations of New Democracy and PASOK.
Much of Greece’s crisis, which sees the country about to enter a seventh year of a deep recession that has created record unemployment and poverty while tax cheats continue to largely escape, was caused by the two parties hiring hundreds of thousands of needless workers for generations in return for votes, weighing down the economy.
The Greek Premier insisted, however, that he would not sign a third bailout agreement in order to secure a new debt reduction.
“Memorandums are only signed when an agreement begins or is reviewed because it was not implemented previously,” he told Kathimerini’s Executive Editor Alexis Papachelas.
“In our case, we have fully complied with the second agreement. We are meeting the program targets and implementing the prior actions at every step. The additional help is foreseen in the agreement we already have so there is no need to sign a new one.”
Samaras said that a third bailout would not be in the interests of Greece or its lenders. “We don’t want a new agreement because it will mean new conditions and our lenders don’t want one because it will need to go through their national parliaments again, which is not an easy thing.”
Despite mounting speculation that general elections might be added to the local and European Parliament polls due to take place on May 18 and 25, Samaras ruled out a snap national vote and said the coalition aims to see out its full four-year term.
“The first signs of the exit from the crisis will begin to show in the first six months of 2014. Why should we rush to hold elections when just the first signs will be showing? Why shouldn’t we hold them at the normal time, when the country has exited the crisis, in 2016?”
Samaras said he was confident that his government, despite being down to 154 MPs – a razor-thin four-vote margin – would not have problems surviving until 2016. Without referring to the 12 independent lawmakers in Parliament or the deputies from former coalition partner Democratic Left in particular, he said that the government would be able to count on the support of others if needed.
“We are trying to move away as quickly as possible from the verge of disaster, not to allow others to take us back there,” said the premier. “This is not something that just we in the government see, others realize it too.”
Samaras also played down Tsipras’ ability to bring down the government. “The problem Mr. Tsipras has is that for him to come closer to governing, he has to turn his back on populism and become more responsible,” he said. “If he tried to do that, though, he’d lose his party, which is the epitome of populism and irresponsibility.”
The Premier also dismissed rumors about the possibility of a new government being formed without elections being held, which would suggest that he would be replaced at the helm of the conservative party.
“I am not going to bother with people who, possibly, move in the darkness,” he said. “People can see them and understand what is going on and will respond in the appropriate way, if need be.”
Samaras revealed that he recently met with his predecessor as New Democracy leader, former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who is reportedly considering a political comeback in the future. “Our relationship is excellent, as always,” he said. “We met a few days ago and discussed things as old friends. I don’t think anything can change that.”
Karamanlis vanished off the political radar screen after being thumped in the 2009 elections by then-PASOK leader George Papandreou. It was later found the Karamanlis administration had misled the EU about the state of the economy.

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