GREEK leaders yesterday proposed their radical plan to remove Europe’s “cloud of fear”, setting themselves up for further clashes with European officials.
In his first major speech to Greek Parliament, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras restated his desire for a New Deal to end the country’s economic crisis. The New Deal was a programme of emergency government spending undertaken by President Franklin Roosevelt in a bid to rescue the US from the Great Depression.
Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis wants a Europe-wide New Deal and said: “The entire Europe is covered in a cloud of fear. We are at risk of becoming worse than the former Soviet Union.”
He – and Tsipras – restated their demand for a loan to tide them over until the summer while negotiations take place. But discussions have so far proved fruitless. In typically confrontational fashion Varoufakis said: “Sooner or later, Chancellor [Angela] Merkel will have to explain why she does not approve our proposals.”
In his speech, Tsipras said he will re-open state broadcaster ERT as well as hike the minimum wage to €751 (£558) per month by next year. He also announced a series of cuts to politicians’ benefits such as banning ministerial cars and selling one of the prime minister’s three aircraft. Tsipras will also cut staff numbers at his office. Neither Tsipras or Varoufakis want to write off debt, only to restructure it. One novel suggestion has been to link interest on the debt to Greece’s growth.
“We repeat that Greece wants to service its debt. If our partners also want this, let’s sit at table and discuss,” Tsipras said. Support for debt restructuring has been shown by French and Italian officials but some believe the EU and the International Monetary Fund will not negotiate for fear of setting a precedent for other countries.
Some fear Greece may be forced out the Eurozone all together. To that end, Varoufakis said: “The euro is fragile, it’s like a castle of cards. If you take out the Greek card the others will collapse.”