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Tsipras: Help Greece like postwar Germany

Sept. 28, 2012 at 11:49 PM   |   Comments

BRUSSELS, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Cut Greece's debt in half like Germany's was after World War II, Greece's opposition leader said, after Athens agreed to more lender-imposed austerity measures.

The increasing austerity is leading to "the collective suicide of the Greek people and the Greek economy," Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza Party, said at the European Parliament after Greece's shaky coalition government tentatively agreed to $17.4 billion in new wage, pension and spending cuts, along with new tax increases.

The measures were demanded by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- known as the troika of Greece's international lenders -- to prove Greece merits consideration for a new $40.5 billion bailout installment.

"This program is a dead end. It cannot work, it cannot function," Tsipras told reporters after meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz. "We need to change the bailout program itself. We need to shift it," the Financial Times quoted him as saying.

Tsipras called instead for a European conference on debt, similar to one held in 1953 that led to 50 percent to 60 percent of Germany's foreign debts from 1919 after World War I through the end of World War II being canceled.

The London Agreement on German External Debts, worked out Aug. 8, 1953, covered Germany's debt to 20 countries, including Greece and the United States.

The agreement said the countries would forgive the debt and ease German payments of the remainder "to remove obstacles to normal economic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and other countries and thereby to make a contribution to the development of a prosperous community of nations."

Germany made its final debt payments from that agreement two years ago.

"Greece was one of the countries that agreed a 60 percent reduction in German debt," Tsipras said.

He called for "some kind of new Marshall Plan. We need a change."

The four-year Marshall Plan was a U.S. program to rebuild war-devastated European economies to make Europe prosperous again.

Without a change, including a treaty like the London Debt Agreement, Greece and Europe will continue to play the "same old bad movie," Tsipras said.

He called on all EU countries, not just eurozone members, to participate in the proposed conference, which would also include private investors, he said.

Tsipras, 38, said the truth of the matter is Greece can never repay all its debts, so why not formalize a workable arrangement similar to what was worked out with Germany.

Germany is now a strong opponent of easing struggling eurozone countries' debt requirements. It had no immediate comment on Tsipras' proposal. Neither did conservative Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Talks with troika representatives are to resume Monday.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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