Government spokesman: The country is entering a phase of recovery

The country is entering a phase of recovery, the positive image of the Greek economy is now a fact but the government had not lost sight of the difficulties still ahead, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said during the regular press briefing on Friday.

“We are fully aware of the difficulties our fellow citizens face and the work that still lies ahead in order to exit the crisis and be free of surveillance,” he noted.

Tzanakopoulos said that the government’s aim was to complete the second review of the Greek programme by the Eurogroup on December 5 and also come away with a decision on the short-term measures to ease Greece’s debt. Athens’ goal was for the medium- and long-term measures on the debt to be made more specific at that meeting, he added.

Attacking main opposition New Democracy, he said that ND was alone in striving for a change in the agreement and a fourth memorandum and had a “dangerous agenda.” The spokesman rejected what he called the main opposition’s attempts to present Greece as isolated and to downplay the significance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Athens on November 15. Tzanakopoulos pointed out that Obama had repeatedly expressed the need to go beyond austerity and had put a solution for Greece’s debt at the top of the agenda for talks.

“A statement by President Obama is not just a statement but political pressure for a solution on the issue of the debt,” the spokesman said, emphasising the fact that Obama will be accompanied by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.

Questioned about the terrorist strike against the French embassy and how this might affect the Obama visit, he said the counter-terrorism service had taken over the investigation and reassured reporters that there was no reason for concern, either for the safety of the citizens or for security during Obama’s visit, noting that all necessary measures have been taken.

Asked whether the government is discussing the possibility of linking debt relief with a new surveillance programme, in the wake of statements made by International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice, Tzanakopoulos pointed out that in Rice’s statement, the IMF does not support additional austerity measures for Greece.

According to Tzanakopoulos, the specific statement was very close to the Greek government’s positions on the time line with respect to targets for the review and measures on the debt.

“A common target is to be able to obtain a clear corridor of a decade, perhaps more, in order to fully restore confidence within the Greek economy and I think we will be able to reach an agreement in the coming period,” he added.

He made it clear that any new agreement that may arise if the IMF agrees to participate in financing the Greek programme will not involve new or additional fiscal measures and structural reforms. He also denied that the institutions’ refusal to lower the 3.5 pct of GDP primary surplus target after 2018 would necessitate such extra measures.

“The basic measurement on the size of the surpluses are Eurostat reports. In so far as they confirm a specific size of primary surplus and consider that the measures are achieving their targets, there is no issue of new, additional measures, either fiscal or structural,” he said.

Tzanakopoulos went on to dismiss press reports that Greece’s banks were heading toward a new recapitalisation, saying there was no such issue. He noted that Greek banks had the highest capital adequacy rate in all of Europe and that the Greek banking system was absolutely safe and secure.

“The government is monitoring developments in the banking sector and does not, on any account, intervene in the choice of their leadership,” the spokesman added, concerning the recent row between National Bank of Greece’s management and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) over selecting the members of the new NBG board. At the same time, he noted that the rift between the bank and HFSF must be “resolved quickly” since it had created a state of anxiety that was not beneficial for the Greek banking system.

Tzanakopoulos expressed the government’s satisfaction over the breakthrough on forming a new National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV). He said the path toward holding a tender to allocate television broadcasting licences was now clear after ND “was forced to back down from its intransigent stance of the last 10 months and do its duty under the constitution.”

Regarding the result of the U.S. elections, the spokesman said the government had been prepared for both outcomes and had congratulated the new president on his election. Channels of communication remained open, he added, and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras might soon contact the new U.S. president.

On the recent report on Turkey released by the European Commission, Tzanakopoulos urged calm and said that the EU-Turkey agreement on the refugee issue must be upheld by both sides. At the same time, he added, Turkey must realise that its EU accession progress depended on respect for democratic freedoms.