Tsipras calls on Berlin to back its reform plans

Berlin: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended his government’s economic reform plan on Friday, calling on Berlin to back Athens’ efforts to emerge from its long-running debt and economic crisis.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out any decisions after talks with Tsipras on Greece’s bailout programme, saying that it was an issue for international institutions which include the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the Euro group of finance ministers to consider.
“We don’t always have simple conversations,” Merkel said standing next to Tsipras ahead of their talks in the chancellor’s office. But they were “always sincere and honest,” she said.
Merkel said her talks with Tsipras would include Greece’s economic and financial situation.
“However, I would say this is not the place for decisions to betaken,” the chancellor said.
“These are in good hands with the three institutions and the Euro group, but the Greek prime minister’s assessment of the situation will certainly play a role in our discussions,” she said.
“Our relationship is characterised by stability and directness,” said Tsipras about his nation’s relationship with Germany.
Berlin has been at the forefront of moves to impose a strict fiscal austerity programme on Athens so as to bring its state finances back into line with the strict fiscal targets for euro member states. But overshadowing Tsipras’ visit to Berlin were tensions between the two nations over the alleged murder of a 19-year-old student in Germany by an Afghan refugee, who was released on probation from a Greek jail in 2015 — 18 months after being convicted of attempted manslaughter and theft. The issue was not referred to by the two leaders in their statements to reporters.
Tsipras has been pressing its creditors for debt relief to help it to revamp its state finances.
But Tsipras has angered Athens’ creditors and its European partners by announcing a one-off Christmas bonus to poor pensioners costing 617 million euros ($643 million ) and moves to support Greek islands at the forefront of Europe’s refugee crisis with a reduced sales tax rate.
In his statement, however, the Greek Prime Minister pointed to forecasts saying his nation’s economy could grow by 2.7 per cent next year 2017 and by 3.1 per cent in 2018.
Merkel called on Greece’s European partners to show solidarity with Athens as it battles to master the refugee crisis set off by conflicts in the Middle East and to agree to measures to distribute the asylum seekers across all EU member states.
“Greece faces huge challenges,” the chancellor said. “We are both jointly promoting the idea that we must have a fair distribution of refugees within the EU, and we cannot leave a country such as Greece here alone.” —dpa