PM Tsipras: Our country has achieved very difficult milestones

Greece has achieved very difficult milestones and is implementing all its commitments, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday evening, responding to a question on an article published in a German daily, during a televised interview on public broadcaster ERT.

“The official voice of the German government in Greece, the German embassy, completely dismissed the report,” Tsipras said, adding that the story doesn’t represent the official German government but that conservative circles never miss an opportunity to attack the government.

“Our country is not only implementing its commitments, but has also achieved very difficult milestones. What was threatening our country is off the table,” he noted, adding that Greece has allies.

Die Welt cited an alleged report of the German Embassy in Athens which described Greece as a “rudderless ship” and accused the government of delaying the implementation of reforms.

On the refugee crisis, the prime minister said the issue of relaxing the strict economic measures doesn’t only concern Greece and was also noted by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz at the European Council. He said the cost of the 24-hour management of the refugee flows is “massive” and added the government has submitted a plan with its needs which will need to be backed with funds for the next year.

Responding to criticism leveled against Greece on its handling of the refugee issue, he said the government has submitted requests to Frontex – for staff, vessels, identification machines – to which the EU border protection unit has not responded. “We do our job very well here. Greece is not open to all-comers,” he noted and stressed that the country is the last pillar if stability in the region.

Asked about the divisive issue of Frontex patrolling Greece’s border with FYROM, he said “there will be no operation in our northern borders”.

Asked whether he is considering widening the government coalition, he said he “feels very safe” with the current parliamentary majority of 153 MPs and clarified his intention was not to create a unity government, as Greeks have only recently expressed their will.

“This government is a government with a 4-year mandate and this should be in everyone’s mind,” he said, noting that the opposition parties should indulge in some self-criticism.

Tsipras explain the government is instead interested in forging a wider consensus in society, which “may also be mirrored at a parliamentary level” on major issues such as pension reform, the refugee crisis and a review of the constitution.

“We don’t need support. We want parties to table their proposals on big issues which extend beyond the 4-year mandate, such as the pension system reform, which is a national issue, and say ‘No’ to horizontal cuts, to draw a national red line,” he said.

Commenting on the issue of vested interests, the prime minister said the triangle formed by the political, banking and media system will be crushed. “We’ve reached a point today where politicians are supported by media groups,” he said, adding that the government will introduce rules which will apply to all. “SYRIZA and I have gone through the hoop,” he said, pointing to attacked he has faced from media.

He also wondered why the main opposition has not presented any proposals for the formation of the independent TV regulators, such as the Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) and warned that if nothing is contributed by the meeting of the parliament’s council, the government will take its own initiatives by altering the law to stop New Democracy from blocking the process.

Asked about the laws the government has already passed through parliament, the premier said they are all “the best possible result of a tough negotiation”, and attacked the opposition for “pretending to be anti-memorandum” although they also voted the bailout in the summer.

Turning his attention on the hot topic of pension system reforms, Tsipras said it would be pointless to cut pensions further and pledged not to do it. “Our position is that there must not be any cuts in main pensions. A twelfth cut in pensions will have no result. I commit on that,” he said, while he admitted this will be a difficult battle in which he’d like to have the support of the opposition and even of employers’ unions.

He said the government has a concrete proposal for the pension reforms which are now being discussed in Economic and Social Council of Greece and noted: “We have to find decent jobs to the unemployed and at the same time not plunder pensioners.”

Tsipras also revealed that the government will have “important developments” on the privatization of Piraeus’ Port (OLP), which will exclude the area of Drapetsona, which will be “handed over to the residents”.

On the ongoing recapitalization of the country’s systemic lenders, Tsipras said the government avoided a haircut on bank deposits while not one bank will have to be liquidated. Commenting on the low price of National Bank’s stock, he said it will rise once the recapitalization is complete and the economy returns to growth.

Asked on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) participation in Greece’s program, he said: “The government never asked for its participation because we believe as a principle that Europe must face its problems alone and we don’t believe there are some people with better know-how that ours.” He continued to say that it also depends on what the Fund wants to do noting that it is waiting to see if the country’s debt will become viable.

He also expressed the opinion that its participation will not be necessary after the successful recapitalization of Greece’s lenders as the amount it would have to pay has been covered.