PARIS Feb 4 Greece would seek to negotiate an
international write-off of about one-third of its debt if the
leftist Syriza opposition party won a general election, its
leader said on Tuesday.
Alexis Tsipras, who is leading a Communist-backed
pan-European leftist list in European Parliament elections in
May, said his country's problems could not be solved by more
loans, which just went to service past debts and shore up the
"The solution isn't more loans. The solution is fewer loans
and less debt," Tsipras, whose party leads Prime Minister
Antonis Samaras' conservative New Democracy in opinion polls,
told the Europresse association on a visit to Paris.
Greece, which has already been bailed out twice with 240
billion euros ($324.44 billion) in euro zone and IMF funds, is
due to hold its next general election in 2016, but voting may be
brought forward if Samaras' fragile right-left coalition were to
lose its narrow parliamentary majority.
Tsipras called for an international conference modeled on a
1953 London agreement among Western powers that cut the debts of
West Germany by 50 percent after World War Two.
Such a negotiation should cancel part of the debts of Greece
and other peripheral euro zone governments and launch a "new
deal" investment drive to revive growth and enable them to meet
their remaining obligations, he said.
Tsipras said German Chancellor Angela Merkel would come to
realise that an organised debt write-off was a more sustainable
solution for Germany than continuing to pour loans into
countries that could never repay them because austerity policies
were causing endless recession.
Asked whether a Syriza-led government would unilaterally
default if other powers refused to negotiate a debt write-off,
Tsipras said he would prefer to avoid unilateral action but
Athens might have to declare a moratorium on interest payments.
"One weapon we could use if our partners are very, very
violent (tough) is to stop repaying interest in order to finance
the Greek economy. But this is not our intention," he said,
speaking in English.
"Our position is to try to find a consensus solution."
Greece is scheduled to hold elections in 2016 if the present
government serves its full term.
Tsipras said he respected the taxpayers of other euro zone
countries which had lent Greece more than 100 billion euros, but
they did not realise only a tiny fraction of that money had gone
to the Greek people to promote economic development.
Asked what proportion of its debt Athens needed to write
off, he said about 60 percentage points of gross domestic
product - the difference between a current debt level of about
175 percent of GDP and the euro zone average of around 110
percent of GDP.
"Greek creditors want at least part of their money back.
That's not possible in the current situation," he said.
Samaras formed a left-right coalition with the crumbling
centre-left PASOK party in 2012 after narrowly defeating Syriza
in a rerun general election in which Tsipras said Merkel had
blackmailed Greek voters.
He predicted that the centre-right New Democracy would be
wiped out in the next general election as PASOK had been because
they had lost their connection with a middle class that was
being wiped out by austerity policies.