Greek PM rejects stricter measures

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has rejected the idea of more strict measures and called for debt relief instead after the European Commission said Greece's fiscal performance was better than expected last year.

Economic progress has been a sticking point in bailout talks, which have dragged on for months as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund argue over whether Greece can achieve a 3.5 percent primary surplus in 2018.

Athens and the EU believe the target is feasible.

The IMF considers it too optimistic and says debt relief is essential, combined with additional measures.

On Thursday, the EU Commission said Athens had attained a primary surplus of 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2015 based on Eurostat data, comfortably beating a target for a 0.25 percent deficit.

"Greece, which has a primary surplus of 0.7 percent does not need extra measures. What Greece needs is an essential debt relief," Tsipras told Euronews.

"We must move forward and finally overcome the crisis."

"Greece, in this last turn, needs a push forward not backwards. Those who have made huge mistakes, wrong choices and projections, should not be allowed to repeat their mistakes," Tsipras said.

Earlier on Thursday, a government official said Greece's fiscal performance last year raised doubts over the credibility of the IMF's projections and its insistence on more austerity measures.

The left-led government, which has a fragile parliamentary majority, hopes the new data could help conclude its bailout review signalling a better performance also for 2016.