By Michele Kambas and Matthias Williams
Greeks accused Germany of trying to humiliate them by making tougher demands for a new bailout deal, as the country’s fate in the euro zone hung in the balance ahead of a meeting of European ministers in Brussels on Sunday.
Elected on a promise to rid Greece of austerity, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced this week to make last minute concessions to the international creditors for painful austerity measures in the hopes of securing a cash-for-reforms deal.
But the damage done by months of fractious talks and Tsipras’s decision to hold a snap referendum on the bailout terms on July 5 means securing a deal will be tough.
Lawmakers including in Germany, Greece’s biggest creditor, are sceptical over whether Athens will carry out reforms that the Greek people overwhelming rejected in the referendum.
Highlighting the reluctance to grant another rescue, Germany’s finance ministry floated proposals demanding stronger Greek measures or a five-year “time-out” from the euro zone.
“What is at play here is an attempt to humiliate Greece and Greeks, or to overthrow the Tsipras government,” Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament and member of Greece’s ruling Syriza party, told Mega TV.
Their economy pummelled by years of recession, their banks shut and dozens of businesses closing daily, some Greeks have vented their anger on figures such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
“The only thing that I care about is not being humiliated by Schaeuble and the rest of them,” said Panagiotis Trikokglou, a 44-year-old private sector employee in Athens.
“I don’t care if we go to the drachma or whatever, we support the prime minister whatever decision he makes, but now I feel a little bad, not with the prime minister but with Germany’s stance. This misanthrope Schaeuble, I don’t know what he’s trying to achieve.”
There was no official reaction from Athens on Sunday about the proposals, although Greek officials in Brussels had said the new German demands proved Berlin did not want a deal.
“It’s clear that certain countries, for reasons which are completely unrelated to reforms and the programme, don’t want a deal,” a Greek government official said.
While an agreement had been in sight, a group of countries kept raising ‘credibility’ issues. “They didn’t specify though what should happen.”
The euro zone ministers have postponed until Sunday a decision on whether to recommend starting talks on a new loan for Athens. They have sought further commitments first on product market liberalisation, labour laws, privatisation, state reform and more defence cuts, plus a promise to pass key laws next week, officials said.
“What is being proposed is punitive. It’s a form of revenge,” said Dimitri Sevastakis, a Syriza lawmaker.
Back home, Tsipras also faces a battle to contain the fallout from his climb-down, with leftist rebels in his own party refusing to back new austerity measures. He could try to quell dissent through a reshuffle or even a snap election.
“After 17 lawmakers from the ruling coalition did not support the measures Athens proposed, creditors have grounds to doubt about the implementation. Add to this the outcome of the referendum,” a conservative lawmaker and former minister said.