Tsipras to raise salaries, clashes with Merkel on debt

'Impossible to pay in full', Syriza

27 January, 20:46

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (2nd R) with a group of newly appointed members of his government following a swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (2nd R) with a group of newly appointed members of his government following a swearing in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens

    (by Patrizio Nissirio) (ANSAmed) - ATHENS - The Tsipras government has taken an oath to the constitution and the Greek people and will on Wednesday get down to work.

    Its first act will likely be to raise the minimum salary. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has meanwhile said that she is against a reduction in Greek debt, while the new deputy foreign minister tasked with international economic affairs, Euclid Tsakalotos, called it ''unrealistic'' to expect Athens to pay its enormous debt in full. At a meeting of her party on Tuesday, the German chancellor said - according to internal sources - that she was against the request for a reduction in Greece's debt. She added that no official request on the matter had yet been received. The position is nonetheless difficult to reconcile with Tsakalotos's words today to the BBC: ''Nobody believes that the Greek debt is sustainable,'' he said. ''I haven't met an economist in their heart of hearts that will tell you that Greece will pay back all of that debt. It can't be done.'' The Syriza-ANEL government has thus got off to a rocky start at the international level. Visits to Athens have been scheduled by European Parliament chief Martin Schulz (Thursday) and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Friday). Tsipras's government will include the economist and sworn enemy of austerity and the 'memorandum', Yannis Varoufakis and deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis, ''coordinator'' of the economic ministries and tasked with talks with international creditors (EU-IMF-ECB troika), as well as the only minister not part of the party: Greek Independents (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, who will be defense minister. Kammenos is one of a handful of ministers and undersecretaries that took their oath of office from Archbishop Ieronymos while placing their hand on the Bible (others include the new healthcare minister, Panayiotis Kouroublis, who is blind and was wearing dark glasses), while all the others opted for the non-religious oath taken on Monday by Tsipras. The ceremony was simple, with many members of the government not even wearing ties, and Varoufakis (known for the attention he places on his appearance) with his shirt left untucked. There are no women in his government except for the head of Parliament (which in Greece is a government role) and anti-corruption chief Zoe Kostantopoulou. Four ''super-ministries'' absorb the various functions of formerly autonomous ones, reducing the number of ministries from 16 to 10. Much applause was heard from the crowd outside the presidential palace on the announcement of the new government.

    With his team ready, Tsipras is likely to adopt one of the most popular measures included in his election campaign: a raise of the minimum monthly salary from 450 euros before taxes to 751, followed by the reinstatement of collective bargaining rules that were cancelled by the conservative government under Antonis Samaras on the request of the troika. Different signals on Europe's views of ''the new Athens'' continue to come in. Italy's economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan has said that ''there is the feeling of finding an agreed-upon solution. The government has not asked us anything about renegotiation'', stressing that they would later see how to work things out together. His German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble instead stressed that ''Greeks are suffering not because of decisions made by Berlin or Brussels. They are suffering because of the failure of their political elite over the past decades'', adding that he had given ''a great deal of help to the Greek finance ministry, which - it must be said - did not take much advantage of this help''. Even before the group photos were taken, the Tsipras government seems to have found itself in the midst of a storm.


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