(Refiles to fix typographical error in headline)
By Michele Kambas and Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS, June 22 (Reuters) – After long insisting he would
only wear a neck tie when Greece’s debt problem was settled,
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras duly did so on Friday, after euro
zone peers offered debt relief that marks a turn away from the
country’s long crisis.
The 43-year-old sported a burgundy number — briefly — when
addressing an evening meeting of political allies in Athens, a
break from the open-necked or polo shirts he usually favours.
“Today is an important day for all, but primarily it belongs
to those who for eight years were viciously hit by the crisis,
for those who saw a lifetime of toils destroyed and those who
carried the burden for the country,” Tsipras said.
Euro zone finance ministers offered Greece a 10-year
deferral and maturities extension on a large chunk of past loans
as well as 15 billion euros in new credit to ensure Athens can
stand on its own feet after it exits its bailout in August.
Debt relief has been an overarching objective of Tsipras’s
administration since he swept to power in 2015. Greece has a
debt mountain equivalent to almost 180 percent of gross domestic
product, the highest in the 19-country euro zone.
Greeks have seen their economy shrink by a quarter,
unemployment spike and salaries and pensions slashed by about 40
percent since first falling into crisis in 2010. The country has
required three international bailouts.
“Bets are made to be won,” a smiling Tsipras told the
meeting of lawmakers from left-wing Syriza and right-wing
Independent Greeks which make up the governing coalition. “It’s
a bit difficult (wearing the tie) but I will get used to it.”
But he publicly removed it about half an hour later. “I
fulfilled the bet, I put the tie on but all these years I gave
battle without a tie,” he said, holding the garment aloft.
Tsipras’ sartorial choices have been the subject of gentle
ribbing from his peers and foreign leaders over the years.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan looked puzzled at their
first encounter and asked him bluntly where his tie was, while
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker once offered
to give Tsipras his.
On Sunday, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev removed his
red tie and gave it to Tsipras during a ceremony marking the
signing of an accord on a name dispute between the two
Some were not impressed by Tsipras’ new attire, however.
“The noose around the neck of Greeks remains,” said Fofi
Gennimata, head of Socialist PASOK party.
(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Catherine Evans)