Greeks react to the surprising decision by new left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party to form an alliance with nationalist party Independent Greeks (ANEL). Duration: 01:09
Greeks react to surprising Syriza-ANEL coalition
New Greek PM to unveil anti-austerity government
/ Athens (Greece) – 27 January 2015
Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is set to unveil his anti-austerity coalition government on Tuesday, including the key post of finance minister who will take the push for a reduction in the country’s massive bailout to Brussels.
The new lineup will give the world a better idea of Greece’s Syriza-led administration, now on a collision course with international creditors over plans to renegotiate its massive 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) bailout deal.
The favourite to take the key finance post is Yannis Varoufakis, an outspoken 53-year-old political economist who holds dual Greek and Australian nationality.
He will likely be supervised by 68-year-old Yannis Dragassakis, a moderate economist, at the head of a new economics and finance “super-ministry”.
With the cheers of their supporters still ringing in their ears after Sunday’s stunning election victory, Greece’s new leaders received a firm rebuttal on the issue of debt forgiveness from their European partners on Monday.
But in a sign of the EU’s willingness to engage with the new power in Greece, the head of the 19-nation Eurogroup collection of countries who use the euro, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, had a 15-minute telephone conversation with Varoufakis.
“Writing off debt in nominal value, I don’t think there’s a lot of support for that within the eurozone,” Dijsselbloem said before the phone exchange Monday.
In Germany — which largely bankrolls the eurozone bailouts and is strongly opposed to any attempts to abandon austerity measures — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman took a similar line.
“In our view it is important for the new government to take action to foster Greece’s continued economic recovery,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters. “That also means Greece sticking to its previous commitments.”
– February deadline –
The EU has set the end of February as the deadline for Greece to carry out more reforms in return for a seven-billion-euro tranche of financial aid from the 28-member bloc and the International Monetary Fund.
Tsipras, who has vowed to reverse many of the belt-tightening measures that Greece’s creditors insisted on, must decide whether to prolong the deadline.
Syriza hopes that its strong mandate — it holds 149 seats in the 300-member parliament — will help it to force through a new deal with Brussels.
“If there is a willingness on both sides, a solution will be found,” Dragassakis told AFP in an interview just days before Sunday’s election.
Syriza claims the stringent conditions attached to the bailout granted in 2010 have caused a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Greece.
It wants to release an immediate 1.2 billion euro plan to increase the minimum wage and pensions.
The first foreign dignitary to visit Greece since Syriza became the first anti-austerity party to take power in Greece will be the social democrat head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, on Thursday.
Having fallen two seats short of an absolute majority, Syriza swiftly forged a governing coalition with the small right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.
Analysts have described the coalition as “unnatural” and potentially short-lived, saying that that ANEL are unpredictable, while the two parties differ starkly on immigration policy.
However, the two parties share a common opposition to the EU-IMF bailout.
Fears that Greece could be forced out of the eurozone if it defaults on its debt repayments saw the euro briefly hit an 11-year low against the dollar Monday, but it improved in Tuesday trade.
The IMF extended an olive branch to the new Greek government, saying it was prepared to continue its financial support to the country.
“We stand ready to continue supporting Greece, and look forward to discussions with the new government,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said in a statement.
Greece’s economy is set to emerge from recession after shrinking by a quarter in five years and leaving one in four people out of work.
Many Greeks say that even if Tsipras can deliver on a fraction of what he has promised, their lives will improve.
After the new prime minister was sworn in on Monday, Eleni, 41, said: “We are just asking to be able to live like any other European citizen.
“At the moment if you go to a state-run hospital in Greece, you feel as if you are in a warzone.
“Repaying the debt does not justify subjecting people to such suffering,” she said.
Sunday’s poll was Greece’s fourth in five turbulent years, including back-to-back votes in 2012.
Tsipras stands alone as Europe’s first anti-austerity leader for the moment, but Syriza’s victory could inspire other anti-austerity parties, including Spain’s Podemos, which has topped several opinion polls and is aiming for an absolute majority in the Spanish election in November.