Euro zone strikes Greek deal with tough conditions

BRUSSELS – Euro zone leaders made Greece surrender much of its sovereignty to outside supervision on Monday in return for agreeing to talks on an 86 billion euros ($95 billion) bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the single currency.

A man walks past pictures of ancient coins in central Athens, Greece, July 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

The terms imposed by international lenders led by Germany in all-night talks at an emergency summit obliged leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to abandon promises of ending austerity and could fracture his government and cause an outcry in Greece.

“Clearly the Europe of austerity has won,” Greece’s Reform Minister George Katrougalos said.

“Either we are going to accept these draconian measures or it is the sudden death of our economy through the continuation of the closure of the banks. So it is an agreement that is practically forced upon us,” he told BBC radio.

Greece however aims to reopen its banks on Thursday, bankers said after meeting the finance minister. Facing a wave of withdrawals, the banks closed two weeks ago.

If the summit had failed, Greece would have been staring into an economic abyss with its shuttered banks on the brink of collapse and the prospect of having to print a parallel currency and exit the European monetary union.

“The agreement was laborious, but it has been concluded. There is no Grexit,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference after 17 hours of bargaining.

He dismissed suggestions that Tsipras had been humiliated even though the summit statement insisted repeatedly that Greece must now subject much of its public policy to prior agreement by bailout monitors.

“In this compromise, there are no winners and no losers,” Juncker said. “I don’t think the Greek people have been humiliated, nor that the other Europeans have lost face. It is a typical European arrangement.”

Tsipras himself, elected five months ago to end five years of suffocating austerity, said he had “fought a tough battle” and “averted the plan for financial strangulation”.

Greece won conditional agreement to receive a possible 86 billion euros ($95 billion) over three years, along with an assurance that euro zone finance ministers would start within hours discussing ways to bridge a funding gap until a bailout – subject to parliamentary approvals – is finally ready.

That will only happen if he can meet a tight timetable for enacting unpopular reforms of value added tax, pensions, budget cuts if Greece misses fiscal targets, new bankruptcy rules and an EU banking law that could be used to make big depositors take losses.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could recommend “with full confidence” that the Bundestag authorize the opening of loan negotiations with Athens once the Greek parliament has approved the entire program and passed the first laws.

The secretary-general of Merkel’s conservatives said the Bundestag was likely to vote on Greece on Friday.

Merkel’s allies rushed to defend the deal, with her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeting that Europe had won and Germany “was part of the solution — from the beginning until the end!”

But in Greece, relief that a deal had been struck was mixed with anger at Germany. “Listen, it is some sort of victory but it is a pyrrhic victory because the measures are very strict,” Marianna, 73, told Reuters.

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Greece came out of the summit “humiliated” – mostly as a result of its refusal to take an offer made to it two weeks ago.

VERSAILLES IN BRUSSELS?

Asked whether the tough conditions imposed on a desperate Greece were not similar to the 1919 Versailles treaty that forced crushing reparations on a defeated Germany after World War One, Merkel said: “I won’t take part in historical comparisons, especially when I didn’t make them myself.” – Reuters

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