BERLIN (ANA/ A. Polychronakis) The Euro area institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must find a way to bridge their differences over debt relief to Greece, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said here on Thursday. It would be “a great shame” if there was no convergence in the EU-IMF positions on how to ease Greek debt, he said.

Speaking during a press conference with Greece’s Labour Minister Efi Achtsioglou, attended by the German and foreign media, Tsakalotos said the Greek government did not intend to call early elections, especially at a time when it was unclear whether a government could be formed, and that its goal was to proceed with the negotiations.

He also defended the government’s decision to hand out a one-off bonus to low-income pensioners, while noting that the Greek government’s credibility toward both the institutions and the Greek people was important at this time.

“I don’t think this is such a big issue,” he said about the pensioner benefit, one day after the institutions announced that short-term measures for Greek debt would be put on hold. “We have more serious problems to deal with,” he added.

Europe needs to demonstrate that it can solve its problems in order to regain the trust of the working classes, amid the rise and even victory of populist forces in elections and referendums, Tsakalotos added.

The finance minister also asserted that Athens had acted in a constructive way during the negotiations, warning that there could be serious problems if the IMF insisted on more austerity, with further cuts to public spending, wages and pensions that were not in the agreements.

He pointed out that the Eurogroup has not yet officially decided to freeze the short-term debt relief measures and that its decision was still pending. Tsakalotos said that the Greek side will explain the reasons why the benefit to low-income pensioners is necessary at the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) and stated his belief “that every reasonable person will see that the government must respond to the needs of its citizens.”

 

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