Athens, February 5, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Lefteris Yallouros
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held a series of crucial meetings Wednesday as part of his drive to secure debt-relief for Greece and the end of EU/IMF – sponsored austerity.
Following meetings with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and EU Council President Donald Tusk, the Greek premier said “I am very optimistic that we will try to do our best in order to find a common, viable and mutually acceptable solution for our common future”.
Martin Schulz, with whom Tsipras made common statements, said the talks were “fruitful” but acknowledged a “difficult time [lies] ahead.”
Alexis Tsipras also flew to Paris Wednesday where he met French President Francois Hollande.
“We need a new accord in Europe for the return of growth and social cohesion, and in this effort we certainly need France playing a role of guarantor, a protagonist for this political change,” the Greek PM toll Hollande.
“We are available to share our experience and expertise on certain reforms that Greece wishes to carry out, including fiscal reform, on which we are specialists,” Hollande said in turn, while adding that Greece will still have to follow EU rules and see through previously agreed commitments.
Meanwhile, after meeting ECB President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he believed that Greece could count on Central Bank support during the short period it would take to conclude talks with international lenders. However, it emerged that the ECB is not willing to accept some of the proposals put forth by Varoufakis, including the swapping of Greek bonds and increasing the maximum volume of short-term treasury bills (T-bills) by 10 billion euros (to total of 25 billion euros).
Greek government sources maintain negotiations so far at EU level have been fruitful as the country’s debt problem is being openly discussed and a tough negotiating process that will lead to a mutually beneficial deal has only just begun.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, indicated that a diplomatic offensive by newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to ease his nation’s bailout-aid requirements is failing to win over converts. “I don’t think that the positions of the member states within the euro area with regard to Greece differ, at least in terms of substance,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday.
The Greek Finance Minister will meet German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin Thursday.