Greece’s European partners want it to stay in the eurozone but insist that it must keep to the terms of its loan agreement, Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos said on Friday, although leftist SYRIZA insisted that it would suspend any measures that deepen the recession and played down any risk of the country being forced to leave the euro.
Following a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, Pikrammenos said that he received a clear message from fellow European leaders during talks in Brussels this week. “Despite what has been mentioned and reported these days, all our European partners want our country to remain in the eurozone,” he said. “That is why we are discussing extensively measures that would help Greece in terms of growth and fighting unemployment.”
However, the prime minister added that the Europeans had made it clear Greece would have to remain faithful to the terms of its bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. “All our European partners consider it self-evident that our country should live up to the obligations it has taken on.”
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters during a visit to Slovenia that no preparations are being made for a Greek exit. “Our first priority is to keep Greece in the eurozone whilst they are respecting the commitments.
”Of course we are reflecting on all different kind of scenarios but we never discussed them, neither in technical nor in political form,” he said. ”The contingency plan is not our priority.”
Speaking to Skai TV on Friday, SYRIZA MP Yiannis Dragasakis said that his party, which is leading in opinion polls, has no intention of rejecting the bailout but plans to repudiate it politically. He said this would mean that measures such as those lowering wages and scrapping collective contracts would be withdrawn. Any other policies that deepen the recession would be frozen, said the economist. He added, however, that a SYRIZA government would negotiate further changes with Greece’s partners.
Dragasakis insisted that if Greece were to leave the euro, the currency would collapse. Speaking to the UK’s Channel 4 on Thursday, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras conveyed a similar message. He likened the standoff between Greece and the eurozone to the Cold War. “Both sides have nuclear weapons and are threatening to push the button,” he said. “We are sure that when the time comes, logic will prevail and the nuclear weapons will not be launched.”
Two leading PASOK members, Anna Diamantopoulou and Costas Skandalidis, suggested that their party should be prepared to cooperate with SYRIZA to form a government after the June 17 elections. Skandalidis said that many in SYRIZA understand the responsibility they could face after the polls. “Maybe the transitional program that Mr Dragasakis will draw up in order to ensure Mr Tsipras is grounded in reality will also lead to a change in the party line,” he said.
“I disagree with the demonization of SYRIZA,” said Diamantopoulou, who identified a coalition between PASOK, SYRIZA and Democratic Left as a possibility.