Athens, Greece — The Greek government said Tuesday that it wants to see a final deal on its international bailout hammered out by August 20, as it presented parliament with more draft legislation on the cash-for-reforms agreement.
Lawmakers are due to vote on a second batch of reforms Wednesday in a fresh test of Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras’ authority, after he suffered a major rebellion in his radical-left party Syriza during a vote on a first tranche of bailout measures last week.
After parliament has voted on the second bill — which must pass if Greece is to receive the bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($93 billion) over three years — the government “will immediately resume negotiations with the (lender) institutions, EU, ECB and IMF, which should take until August 20 at the latest,” said government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili.
August 20 is the deadline for debt-crippled Greece to pay 3.2 billion euros owed to the European Central Bank, ahead of a payment of 1.5 billion euros owed to the International Monetary Fund in September.
The Greek government received a boost Tuesday when Standard & Poor’s raised its credit rating by two notches to CCC+ from CCC-, still in junk territory but a step in the right direction.
S&P said that the scenario of Athens defaulting on its debts was no longer inevitable in the coming year and thus the chances of Greece having to pull out of the euro were reduced, though still “high”.
Athens was able to pay off billions in debt to the ECB and IMF on Monday with 7.16 billion euros of emergency “bridge” funding granted by the EU.
Tsipras managed to push the first series of unpopular reforms through parliament last Wednesday — including sweeping changes to Greece’s taxes, pensions and labour rules — but only with the help of pro-European opposition parties.
Within Syriza, 32 of the party’s 149 MPs voted against the measures, including former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis among them. A further six abstained.
The second bill includes an EU directive, adopted after the financial crisis in Cyprus in 2013, that guarantees bank deposits up to 100,000 euros, as well as civil justice reforms designed to speed up legal proceedings and reduce their costs.
Civil servants’ union ADEDY said it would stage a protest against the bill on Wednesday evening during the emergency debate in parliament.
Athens agreed last week to carry out tough reforms in exchange for a massive third bailout aimed at keeping Greece from crashing out of the eurozone.
Asked if the threat of a Greek exit from the euro, or “Grexit”, had passed, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Tuesday: “I think we’ve made a big step in that direction.”
But he also told the French channel BFMTV: “We must not slacken our efforts” while striving “to find the right balance between… Greece’s responsibility to reform, and solidarity among Europeans.”
Analysts forecast that Tsipras’ coalition government, which teams his party with the nationalist Independent Greeks, will be forced to call early elections if the revolt within Syriza continues.
But the administration, in power for only six months, hopes to see a smaller rebellion in Wednesday’s vote.
Tsipras reshuffled his cabinet on Friday to fill the vacancies left by three members who were sacked after voting against the first batch of reforms.
Gerovassili said on Monday that elections would not be “useful at the moment,” adding: “The government has no intention of organising any.”
Moscovici said Tsipras had not faced an “easy choice” in agreeing to the reforms.
“Along the way he has lost some of his own troops, but he has also won public opinion and other political support,” he said.
An opinion poll at the weekend published in the To Vima newspaper found 68 percent of respondents named Tsipras as the politician most capable of leading the country, far ahead of any of his rivals.