ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s government is confident of reaching a deal with its creditors this week and is open to pushing back parts of its anti-austerity program to make that happen, the country’s interior minister said Saturday.
Greece and its EU/IMF creditors have been locked in talks for months on a cash-for-reforms deal and pressure is growing for a deal, since Athens risks default without aid from a bailout program that expires on June 30.
“We believe that we can and we must have a solution and a deal within the week,” Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, who is not involved in Greece’s talks with the lenders, told Skai television.
“Some parts of our program could be pushed back by six months or maybe by a year, so that there is some balance,” he said.
He did not elaborate on what parts of the ruling Syriza party’s anti-austerity program could be pushed back, but the comments suggested a greater willingness to compromise on pre-election pledges.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stormed to power in January on promises to cancel austerity, including restoring the minimum wage level and collective bargaining rights.
The government earlier this week said it hoped for a deal by Sunday, though international lenders have been less optimistic, citing Greece’s resistance to labor and pension reforms that are conditions for more aid.
Voutsis said Athens and its partners agreed on some issues, such as achieving low primary budget surpluses in the first two years. But they still disagreed on a sales tax, with Greece pushing so any VAT hikes will not burden lower incomes.
“A powerful majority in the political negotiations has showed respect for the fact that there can’t be further austerity strategies for the Greek issue, the Greek problem and the Greek people,” he said.
The debt stand-off between Greece and its European Union partners overshadowed a meeting of policymakers from the Group of Seven rich nations in Dresden, Germany, on Friday.
The United States warned of a possible accident for the world economy if Greece and its creditors miss their June deadlines to avert a debt default.
In an interview with Realnews newspaper published on Saturday, Economy Minister George Stathakis said Athens had no alternative plan.
“The idea of a Plan B doesn’t exist. Our country needs to stay in the eurozone but on a better organized aid program,” he said.
Stathakis was confident a deal will be reached. “Otherwise, mainly Greece but the European Union as well will step into unchartered waters and no-one wants that.”
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Deepa Babington and David Holmes)