Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his country could return to bond markets soon, if it reached a debt-restructuring deal with creditors in the coming months, but warned that Europe’s migration crisis threatened efforts to turn around Greece’s economy.
“The goal is to return to the markets,” the Greek Prime Minister told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “If there is a good decision on the debt issue, Greece could return to markets shortly after debt restructuring.”
Talks on restructuring Greece’s staggering debt load are expected to begin later this year, once a first review of the country’s new bailout program is successfully completed.
Earlier this month, Mr. Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party secured an emphatic re-election victory that returned him to the prime minister’s seat with the same antiestablishment coalition that governed Greece through this year’s standoff, and eventual bailout deal, with European creditors. The win now gives Mr. Tsipras a mandate to implement the kind of painful austerity he was originally elected to fight against.
On Tuesday, he vowed to stick to the terms, despite the fact that some of them, such as the tax increases, “will not have positive results.” The 41-year-old prime minister has said that the deal was necessary to avoid a catastrophic exit from the eurozone and that aspects of it are an improvement to earlier bailout programs.
“The agreement for the first time has a realistic approach; the adjustment is milder,” Mr. Tsipras said while in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week.
He added that the country was expected to return to growth in the second half of 2016 but that Europe’s migration crisis could harm its fragile economy—particularly its all-important tourism industry. The country’s debt crisis has severely limited its ability to handle the influx of migrants entering its borders.
“Our goal is to agree with our (European) partners that if the situation deteriorates, the funds that Greece will spend will be excluded from the calculation of the deficit,” Mr. Tsipras said, referring to deficit targets agreed to under the bailout program.
About 350,000 refugees and other migrants have entered Greece this year —70% of them since July. Half of them have first landed on the island of Lesbos, while many others have arrived on other Greek islands. As a result of the influx, such islands have seen a roughly 40% decline in tourism revenues, officials say.
The Greek prime minister urged Europe to act swiftly and show solidarity in responding to the crisis. “United Europe won when the wall fell in Berlin,” he said. But “if now, we build walls in Europe, this is not the Europe of our common future.”
Referring to Greece’s monthslong turbulent negotiations with its creditors this year, Mr. Tsipras said that he had known that the talks would be difficult. But he said he had been surprised by what he said was an effort by extreme conservative forces within Europe to push Greece out of the eurozone.
“I couldn’t believe [the German Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schäuble wanted a division in Europe, but in the end he did,” he said, adding that he has a more trusting relationship with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr. Tsipras also called on Europe to step up efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution in Syria and urged the West not to leave Russia out of such talks.
“If we want to discuss the perspective of global stability and security, I think that it is a mistake to exclude Russia from these discussions,” the Greek premier said. “That does not mean that we agree with their strategy or all Russian policies.”
Wall Street Journal