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Venizelos Says No Bailout, No Elections[26/9/2013]

Greek Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister/PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos said during his visit to New York to represent the country at the UN General Assembly that despite what Greece’s lenders and many analysts say, there is no need for a third bailout to fill a looming budget gap of $11-$14 billion over the next couple of years.

Venizelos, who as finance minister in 2011 when his party was ruling imposed 74 percent losses on private investors and locked Greece out of the markets said the economy could recover with more rescue monies by changing the terms of its loans with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and somehow convincing people who had been burned in holdings of Greek bonds to take another chance and invest.

“We understand very, very well how difficult it is for every government to accept debt relief. … our demand is not debt relief. It is additional re-profiling without problems, without additional burden for our institutional partners,” Venizelos said in an interview with top editors at Reuters in New York.

He was referring to the idea of also stiffing the EU with big losses on its $325 billion in two bailouts by not repaying the loans in full or getting lower interest rates and a longer time to repay.

Ironically, PASOK and the New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who has the Socialists in a coalition government, owe Greek banks 250 million euros ($337 million) in loans they aren’t repaying and for which they have given the loan officers who granted them without collateral immunity from prosecution. The government also has set aside a bill for debt relief for Greeks crushed by pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions and is going to allow banks to foreclose on their homes.

“We are talking about the potential for a lost generation here,” he said, adding that the prospect of a social explosion if Greek citizens are forced to endure more fiscal austerity was the biggest risk for the country although he has backed every demand of the Troika unreservedly but now is trying to distance himself from the likelihood of more as protests are mounting again.

“It is not possible to implement new fiscal measures. It is not possible to impose new cuts on wages and pensions,” he said. Samaras said he would not impose any more austerity although German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country fits much of the bill for helping Greece and has insisted on austerity said that another aid package would come with more hard reforms for Greeks suffering record unemployment and a 20 percent poverty rate.

He said the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which last year entered the 300-seat parliament for the first time, and won 18 seats in June elections, was a product of the crisis created by alternating administrations of New Democracy and PASOK hiring hundreds of thousands of needless workers for generations in return for votes.

“Our point is not to transform the adjustment program as a more loose program, but to implement through a clever manner the existing program,” Venizelos said without explaining what that vague sentence meant.

Merkel΄s landslide re-election victory on Sept. 22 came with the rise of a more Euroskeptic political movement that is hostile to Eurozone bailouts and as she said she would keep her boot on Greece’s neck to reform.

But Venizelos said now that the elections were out of the way in Germany, there was the opportunity to talk strategically about Europe΄s future, and what he deemed the “re-evaluation and the reassessment of our common European destiny.”

He also said that Golden Dawn, under fire after one of its members was charged with the murder of an anti-fascist, would damage itself if it tries to force elections by walking out of Parliament  over a government crackdown. Golden Dawn won 6.97 percent of the vote last year and had risen as high as 12-13 percent in some polls but fell to 5.8 percent in one poll last week in the aftermath of the killing.

Venizelos was responding to Greek media reports that Golden Dawn, which denies a neo-Nazi label, was considering yanking its 18 deputies from the 300-seat parliament, hoping to force political change.

“This is a kind of political suicide for them,” Venizelos told the Reuters editors. “It’s not a threat. It’s a great opportunity.” The party did not confirm any plans for a walkout on its website and did not immediately respond to calls from Reuters.