Passos and Greek PM Tsipras to meet face-to-face

Portuguese PM Pedro Passos Coelho has dismissed Greece’s anti-austerity agenda as “fairytale”, but next week he will be meeting with the country’s buoyant new leader Alexis Tsipras.

The face-to-face encounter will come at the next summit of European leaders, to be held in Brussels on Thursday (February 12).

Meantime, Tsipras has let it be known that he is keen to get both Portugal and Spain ‘on side’ in his bid to change troika lenders’ attitudes to indebted southern countries.

Talking to Expresso this week, Bloco de Esquerda MP Marisa Matias claimed Tsipras has been in touch with her, expressing a desire to meet with Passos Coelho.

Matias lamented the PM’s attitude, however. His “obstinacy” to even consider Syriza’s platform stands in stark contrast to the reaction of other European leaders, she told reporters.

Indeed, she claimed, Tsipras had commented that of all the reactions he has received, “Portugal and Spain are being the hardest to convince”.

According to Matias, this has lost Portugal its “best opportunity”.

The government knows “that the debt is a chokehold used as blackmail” to impose the politics of austerity, she said, while contending that the “Portuguese debt is unsustainable” just as much as that of Greece.

Tsipras’ willingness to talk represented “an opportunity that could advise both Portugal and Spain on how they too could join forces and demand better conditions and debt renegotiation”, she told reporters.

But Passos Coelho has consistently poured cold water on the idea.

This morning, Diário de Notícias writes that the Portuguese leader refuses even to comment on whether or not he will receive a visit from his Greek counterpart.

“Passos Coelho rejects that he has any problem with Alexis Tspiras,” adds DN, but stresses that “Portugal has collaborated and helped Greece”.

Indeed, Passos Coelho told the paper that “Portugal is one of the European countries that has most helped the Greek people”.

As Bloomberg business pointed out earlier this week, Portugal has a lot of money at stake in Greece, having made bilateral loans to the struggling country of almost €1.1 billion.

Indeed, Portugal’s total exposure to Greece tops the European ranking with a 3.2% of GDP.

As Bloomberg pointed out, Passos Coelho’s refusal to countenance a Greek debt pardon has possibly as much to do with money as it has with principles.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]