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Politics

EU parliament president 'expects clashes' but no 'rash decisions' from Greece

EU parliament President Martin Schulz has said he expects clashes with Athens over how to lighten the country's bailout. It was his first official visit to Greece since the country elected a new left-wing government.

Following discussions with newly-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday, Schulz said, however, that he did not expect rash decisions from Athens and that Greece is open to hold talks.

"You know that in many open discussions in Europe, there is a concern, some concern, that Tsipras will follow his own course. What I have concluded today is that is not the case," Schulz said.

Tsipras, whose radical left Syriza party won the Greek elections on Sunday, has already called on Greece's eurozone creditors to forgive most of its bailout loans and soften the budget measures it has been asked to take.

Tremors were sent through Athens' stock market on Wednesday - causing it to fall by more than 9 percent - after Greece's new cabinet pledged to go back on its word on key budget commitments, which were made by previous administrations in exchange for 240 billion euros ($271.66 billion) in loans from the eurozone and International Monetary Fund.

Some investors fear that faced with resistance from the eurozone, Greece might decide to act on its own accord and stop repaying its bailout loans altogether.

Tsipras said on Thursday, however, that his government was in talks for "an overall European and mutually beneficial solution on matters of common interest," but that "it is obvious that, for these consultations to be effective and conclude in a mutually beneficial manner, time is needed."

The Greek prime minister also said he aims to achieve balanced primary budgets, which exclude debt servicing costs, but will revise the previous government's "unrealistic" targets for primary surpluses downwards until 2020.

On Friday, chairman of the eurozone finance meetings Jeroen Dijsselbloem will also visit Athens, for what the Greek finance ministry said will effectively mark the start of negotiations with creditors.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is also due to meet his counterparts from Britain, France and Italy in the coming days.

ksb/gsw (AFP, AP)

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