Greece cuts deal with lenders by pledging more pain

If the Eurogroup approves the deal, it will pave the way for debt relief talks and the possibility of more loans for Greece's battered economy. Unions have slammed the deal.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek pensioners take part in a demonstration in Athens against planned pension cuts. (April 4, 2017)

Promising to cut pensions and give taxpayers fewer breaks, Greece has paved the way for the disbursement of further rescue funds from international lenders and possibly opened the door to reworking its massive debt.

Officials from both sides reached a deal early on Tuesday on a package of bailout-mandated reforms, ending six months of staff-level haggling. Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos announced it with a term associated with papal elections.

"There was white smoke," he told reporters.

Greece now needs to legislate the new measures  which also include opening up the energy market to competition  before Eurozone finance ministers approve the disbursement of loans, probably at the next scheduled Eurogroup meeting on May 22.

Athens needs the funds urgently to repay 7.5 billion euros ($8.2B) in debt maturing in July.

The Eurogroup meeting could mark the first formal discussion of debt relief for Greece, an issue that means different things to each side.

TRT World's Maria Kagkelidou reports from Athens.

The International Monetary Fund reckons Greek debt is unsustainable at 179 percent of gross domestic product and is reluctant to participate in further funding without a debt relief agreement.

European Union lenders, however, have ruled out forgiving the debt and refused to discuss such things as cutting repayment rates until after a reform-for-cash deal is cut.

Both groups of lenders have differed markedly about what Greece's budget is capable of sustaining.

The Greek government, however, hailed Tuesday's agreement as now allowing the yet-to-be-defined relief go ahead.

"The government believes that this road, despite the difficulties, will lead to the country's exit from bailouts," Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said. "What's important after closing the bailout review is to have a roadmap for debt relief."

Skourletis repeated Greece's mantra that demanding increasing amounts of austerity risks alienating great swathes of EU citizens.

"The consequences for every government, including ours, that is obliged to implement bailout measures, is the risk of damaging the relationship with society, particularly the groups that you want to represent," he said.

Unions slam deal

Greece's largest public sector union ADEDY last week said it will stage a 24-hour strike on May 17 against the deal.

ADEDY said the measures were "unfair and tough."

An official at private sector union GSEE, Greece's largest, said it is also gearing up for a 24-hour walkout on May 17. Its board would confirm the decision this week, the official said.

The date of the strike, aimed to coincide with the parliamentary vote on the measures, could change, ADEDY said.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies