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Tsipras rules out rift with lenders

January 28, 2015

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has ruled out a rift with international lenders, saying his new Cabinet wants only a "fair" solution. His team has stopped the privatization of Piraeus, Greece's biggest port.

Griechenland erste Sitzung des neuen Kabinetts 28.01.2015
Image: Reuters/M. Djurica

Tsipras convened the first meeting of his anti-austerity Cabinet on Wednesday, vowing to end "nepotism" in business and renegotiate Greece's huge debt in a "fair, mutually beneficial" deal with its creditors, including the EU.

Greece's European partners have ruled out debt forgiveness since Tsipras' left-wing Syriza triumphed in Sunday's election by defeating long-established parties.

Tsipras, speaking as the Cabinet convened, said his new government, with the right-wing partner Independent Greeks as the junior partner, would draft a four-year plan containing "realistic" proposals on debt and investment.

He also vowed to put an end to what he called nepotism among business tycoons. Greece's past "clientele state" would vanish, according to quotes from the German press agency DPA.

Reuters quoted Tsipras as telling his new Cabinet: "We are coming in to radically change the way that policies and administration are conducted in this country."

Syriza has already signaled that the Cabinet would increase the minimum wage and pensions for the poorest.

Social costs 'unnecessary'

Tsipras' finance minister, economist Yanis Varoufakis, who has railed against bailouts imposed on struggling eurozone nations, said late on Tuesday that Greece would renegotiate "with our partners" while minimizing "unnecessary" social costs.

Greece has 240 billion euros ($293 billion) in bailout loans from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In an initial decision late Tuesday, Deputy Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas said the new government would stop the planned sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority (PPC).

China's Cosco shipping group and four other suitors had previously been shortlisted. Shares in the port authority fell by 7 percent on Wednesday.

Cosco had announced in December that it planned to turn Piraeus into a new harbor and rail hub for southeast Europe.

New Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Greek television that the new Cabinet would block the sale of a stake in Greece's Public Power Corporation (PPC).

"There will be a new PPC, which will help considerably the restoration of the country's productive activities," Lafazanis said.

The previous government, under Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, legislated last year for a privatization plan agreed under the EU-IMF bailout.

Senior EU officials to visit Athens

The head of the eurozone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who on Monday warned Greeks against excessive expectations, is due in Athens on Friday for talks.

One of the first foreign dignitaries to visit Greece since Syriza won the poll will be the European Parliament's social democratic bloc chairman, Martin Schulz of Germany.

He is scheduled to visit Tsipras on Thursday.

Tsipras' new Cabinet includes professors, lawyers and former journalists and, as defense minister, Panos Kammenos, the leader of the Independent Greeks party.

Since 2010, Greece's economy has shrunk by a quarter, leaving one in four people of employable age out of work.

ipj/jr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)