The government is determined to lead Greece out of the crisis, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, in statements at a ceremony inaugurating the newly-delivered Tempi Tunnel and the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway. Linking the project to the ongoing negotiations for completing the second review of the Greek program, Tsipras said it was a symbol that Greece can stand on her own two feet and succeed.
“Greece is finally attaining a comprehensive agreement that opens the way for an exit from programs of economic supervision…It is regaining the strength to stand on its own feet, using its own strength,” he said.
The prime minister underlined that the government was determined to achieve this and that no one will succeed in preventing it, adding that the country was now crossing the “last few meters” in a difficult, uphill course.
“We will not tire nor back down … we are determined to defend the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people and to not let anyone play games at the expense of the Greek economy,” Tsipras said, adding that the completion of the review was “very close, whether some want it or not.”
Referring to the ongoing negotiations, the Greek prime minister emphasised that the “stalling tactics end here, and within April there will be an end to the endless discussions and delays regarding the measures necessary to relieve Greek debt.”
The tunnel inaugurated on Thursday bypassed the Tempi valley, the most dangerous part of the road between Athens and Thessaloniki, Tsipras pointed out, replacing this by a short road that meets the latest safety standards.
“The delivery of this part of the road completes the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway, whose construction started 70 years ago… These works belong to the Greek people,” Tsipras underlined.
While the government could not claim credit for initiating these projects, he said, it did claim credit for “unraveling” a complicated skein of obstacles and difficulties that prevented their completion, through a tough negotiation with concessionaires and banks. The government had managed to avert the danger that these major infrastructure projects would become irretrievably stalled, which would have required the return of 8.5 billion euros and leave the projects unfinished, he added.
Through this process it reached an agreement that reduced the demands for compensation by 764 million euros, and with the close cooperation and assistance of European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu and the European Commission was able to secure funding to begin the works anew, he explained.
“We proved and are proving that, even in times of difficulty, serious work and awareness of one’s responsibility to the country, the citizens and the public interest can bring positive and productive results,” the prime minister said. The completion of the project was perhaps the strongest symbolism that Greece can stand on its own two feet and succeed, he added.
Tsipras attended the inauguration of the new tunnel with Cretu and Infrastructure and Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis.