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Tsipras in Berlin says Greeks who made ‘sacrifices’ deserve help

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted Friday on Athens’ right to compensate those who have made “sacrifices” during the economic crisis and refugee influx.

Speaking in Berlin ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has insisted on strict fiscal discipline in exchange for aid to debt-mired Athens, Tsipras said Greeks deserved “fair” treatment.

“We want the wounds of the crisis to be healed… for all those who have made enormous sacrifices in the name of Europe and European stability,” Tsipras told reporters.

He said fairness would mean “encouraging decisions on the part of European partners so that we do not allow Greece to slip back into instability”.

Greek lawmakers approved Thursday a handout for poor pensioners that has set the country on a collision course with some of its European creditors.

The measure, announced by under-pressure Tsipras last week, earmarks 617 million euros ($656 million) for a one-off payment.

It also includes a lower sales tax for Greek islands sheltering migrants.

Tsipras on Friday stressed “the great burden borne by the islands despite the economic crisis”.

Athens says the pension handout will come out of a one-billion-euro tax surplus, but European creditors on Thursday said the Greek move raised “significant concerns on both process and substance” regarding the country’s bailout obligations.

A spokesman for Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Wednesday said the eurozone was suspending a recently-announced debt relief scheme for Athens in retaliation at not being fully briefed on Tsipras’s handout plans.

Merkel did not comment on the pension bonuses, stressing that decisions on Greece’s bailout package rested solely with the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

But she said that she and Tsipras would “certainly discuss” the aid programme for Greece and how he sees the situation in his country.

“Our talks haven’t always been easy but they are always honest, candid and marked by a desire for results,” she said.

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