Fresh on the heels of Greece floating a sovereign bond for the first time since the economic crisis began four years ago, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had to reject talk that a third bailout will be needed.
Samaras said the sale of a 3 billion euro five-year bond, which came as Greece tested the waters for a full market return once two international rescue packages run out, was proof the economy would begin to recover on its own.
That came after Eurozone finance chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said talk of Greece’s recovery is premature.
“I’m quite convinced we’ll have to look at it very carefully after the summer to see what the future is and whether that needs another program,” Dijsselbloem said in an interview in Washington.
Bailout overseers say they don’t believe Greece is ready to go it alone. “They don’t have full access to markets as yet,” Dijsselbloem said, according to Bloomberg financial news service.
Most of the 240 billion euros ($331 billion) in the bailouts from the Troika (European Union/International Monetary Fund/European Central Bank) runs out this year and the IMF said Greece may need additional help until 2016, when the next national elections are scheduled.
In an article Sunday’s Greek daily Kathimerini, Samaras declared: “The country’s return to the markets rebuffs [speculation] about a third memorandum,” a prospect that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was careful to leave open on her whirlwind visit to Athens on April 11.
“Two years ago, when I was speaking about prospects and hope, the signs were not good. Few believed that we could make it,” Samaras wrote.
“Now, everyone can see it: Greece is succeeding, step by step.” He said his priorities now were growth-boosting measures and “relief for those who have been hardest hit” by austerity measures he imposed on Troika orders.
He provided neither details nor any programs to help workers, pensioners and the poor who’ve been buried under pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and civil servant firings.
The austerity measures have created deep poverty and record unemployment, worst for those under 25, but Samaras, who last year said he would put 75,000 young to work in January, hasn’t said a word on this since.
Samaras, whose conservative New Democracy party is facing a serious challenge in key elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities next month, attacked his critics.
He took shots at the main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and at the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, most of whose main players are on remand, pending trial on charges of running a criminal organization.
He said democracy had been challenged by “an irresponsible opposition which tried to rally the people against the country staying in the Eurozone” and by a “criminal organization” which used its MPs’ parliamentary immunity to launch “an unprecedented wave of violence.”
He didn’t answer why, as critics had said, he waited so long to go after Golden Dawn, whose members had been accused of orchestrating violence against immigrants, a charge the fascist party denied.
Others have said that the bond was floated as a political ploy, timed to benefit Samaras and New Democracy at the elections. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, however, said only two days prior to the bond sale that the issue was still being weighed, but Kathimerini quoted unidentified sources who claimed it had been decided on March 24 after months of secret talks at Samaras’ home.