Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Athens accepts its EU partners' insistence that the International Monetary Fund keeps supervising the country's rescue program.
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos as part of a panel that included German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greece believed the European Union could manage the program on its own, but it accepted that other partners wanted the IMF involved.
"There has been a long debate, we have heard different views. Some partners asked that the IMF be involved and we agreed in order to have the agreement. Now we are doing all we can to implement this agreement," he said on Thursday.
Tsipras' remarks came in response to EU countries' demand that more aid would only be provided if Athens agreed that the IMF remained engaged in the bailout. Notably the German finance minister was recalcitrant saying it would be like "entering a room full of dynamite with a lighted candle" to ask parliament in Berlin to change that agreement.
Tsipras joked that he didn't want Schäuble to blow himself up so they needed to remove the dynamite before he entered that room. The leftist Greek leader, who was due to meet IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde later in the day, said what mattered was that differences among Athens' lenders should not delay concluding a first review of the bailout program.
Strikes over pensions
The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is under pressure to implement pension reforms as a precondition for further financial aid from the country's creditors. Among the planned measures are cuts averaging 15 per cent for new pensions.
Greek farmers were blocking key access roads with their tractors Thursday as protests against the pension cuts and tax hikes spread across the country. The route connecting western Greece with Turkey was obstructed, while further road blocks were due to go up in northern and central Greece later in the day, farmers said on Greek television.
Sailors meanwhile continued a 48-hour strike with most ferries staying put in the harbor. Rail traffic slowed down due to railworkers going on strike. More than 2,000 lawyers, engineers, notaries, pharmacists, doctors and other self-employed people gathered for protests in Athens around midday, shouting "We're saying no to pension reforms."
According to state radio, similar rallies were held in other cities across the country. The Greek media have dubbed the protests an "uprising of the tie wearers." Nationwide strikes are expected to hit the public sector on February 4.
IMF and EU officials, however, have voiced reservations about the proposed pension reform because it would be funded partly by increases in contributions by employers and employees, which they contend would prevent economic recovery and job creation in the official economy.
Tsipras insisted on the Davos panel that there should not be another across-the-board cut in pensions. Already, Greeks have seen 12 different pension reforms since the start of the country's bailouts in 2010.
Schäuble did not comment specifically on the pension reform but said what mattered most was that EU countries stuck to the agreements they reached - a frequent German criticism of Greece's performance in the past six years.
uhe/pad (Reuters, dpa, AFP)