Samaras: Debt buy-back right would ease burden on Greek economy

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras said on Saturday night that the right to buy back Greece's debt at a reduced price would be a "real easing" of the load for the Greek economy, given that the extension of the repayment period for Greece's 110 billion euro EU/IMF support loan and the reduction of the interest rate agreed by eurozone leaders in Brussels on Friday do not reduce the absolute size of the debt.

Samaras was commenting on a decision by Eurogroup leaders to extend the repayment period for Greece's 110-billion-euro bailout by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund) to seven and a half years and reduction of the interest rate from 5.2 percent to 4.2 percent during an informal summit in Brussels on Friday.

The main opposition leader also accused the Greek government over a 50 billion euro privatisations programme, noting that such a plan gives rise to questions on the government's planning, and reiterated that the only solution was a change in the terms of the Memorandum.

"At the informal special summit, Greece achieved an extension for repayment of the 110 billion euros and a reduction in interest. The former (extension) had already been given to Greece by a decision of the Eurogroup summit of November 28, while the latter (interest reduction) had already been clarified days ago in statements by European Commissioner Olli Rehn and other officials," Samaras pointed out, noting that ND had advanced both aspects systematically for some time in its contacts with European officials.

Regarding the management of the debt, he continued, those two decisions are indeed a relief "without, however, reducing the current absolute size of the debt".

"A real easing (of the burden on the economy) would be the right to buy back the debt at a reduced price -- the third demand that had been advanced by ND -- which was not accepted," Samaras said, adding that "a permanent solution for viability would have been the euro-bond, which was not even discussed" at the Eurogroup summit.

Samaras said that Friday's development reveals that "margins for negotiation had existed since last year, a negotiation that the government did not make at that time".

"However," he stressed, "neither the economic situation or society will breathe, nor will the eurozone summit decisions be sufficient to tackle the debt, unless the Memorandum terms are changed radically."

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