Greek prime minister promises to keep paying creditors

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PARIS (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted Thursday that his government will pay debts that are due soon, even if Athens doesn't get part of a rescue loan that will only get released if current bailout talks are successful.

While in the French capital to drum up support for his government's reform plans, Tsipras said, "It is certain that Greece will meet its obligations."

Still, he urged quick disbursement of part of a 7.2-billion-euro ($7.6 billion) rescue loan installment to prove to Greeks that international creditors are taking the new radical left government's concerns seriously.

Technical talks between Greece and its creditors began in Brussels on Wednesday to finalize reforms that Athens must implement in order to get the remaining funds from its bailout package released.

Without the money, Greece will have difficulties paying off debts that are due, raising the risk of bankruptcy and a potential exit from the euro currency. Since 2010, Greece has depended on 240 billion euros worth of bailout cash to meet its debt obligations.

Greece's creditors in the 19-country eurozone agreed last month to extend the country's bailout until June. However, the release of the final tranche of cash will only be sanctioned if the Greek government's reform plans are approved.

Building confidence over the government's plans was the main reason why Tsipras was in Paris. He signed an accord with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for cooperation on the reforms. The Greek government has listed a series of reforms it intends to push through over coming months, with many aimed at tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

Tsipras said the OECD will put "its stamp on the reforms," which will be "very significant to build mutual trust" with Greece's creditors.

Greece and the OECD pledged to work together on strengthening the tax system, tackling oligopolies and cartels, and reducing the administrative burden to business.

A fact-finding team from Greece's creditors was in Athens on Thursday to discuss macroeconomic and fiscal issues. A separate team is due next week to focus on banking and structural reforms.

But amid resentment over past creditors' on-site austerity inspections, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis insisted that the visiting teams wouldn't be allowed into ministry buildings. Instead, the data will be handed over in another location.


Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed to this report.