Belfast Telegraph

Kenny rejects debt conference call

Irish Premier Enda Kenny has rejected calls from new Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras for a European debt conference.

Despite his coalition deputy suggesting the proposal had merit, Mr Kenny said any attempt by Greece to renegotiate its debts should be done through existing European institutions.

"The (Greek) prime minister indicated Greece is prepared to negotiate and the forum for negotiation is the eurogroup and the Ecofin meeting," Mr Kenny told the Dail, Dublin's parliament.

"That's the place where the question of debt is discussed, dealt with and can be changed."

Mr Tsipras, who took power in Athens after a general election at the weekend, has called for a European-wide debt conference akin to the 1953 London conference which wrote off half of Germany's debt.

The leader of the leftist Syriza party said that deal helped Germany achieve its post-war economic miracle, and argued there was a "moral duty" for a similar deal now to boost European growth.

Ireland, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Spain have all negotiated for debt deals through the eurogroup and Ecofin, meetings of European finance and economic ministers.

Mr Kenny said along with the European Council, that is the forum to discuss debt relief.

"I have written to the prime minister in Greece and wished him and his government well in the challenge that they face, I'm glad to hear him say that Greece will not default, I'm glad to hear him say that Greece is now prepared to negotiate," he added.

"For our part, for the last number of years, we have a record of being able to prove that negotiation can work in the interests of the debt position of our country, which was handed to us by the catastrophic situation a number of years ago.

"I already said to the prime minister in Greece we will work with him and his government."

Joan Burton, Irish Labour Party leader and Tanaiste, said there was "merit" in the suggested European debt conference, but added that Ireland's problems were very different to Greece's.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has pressed the Irish government to back calls for a conference, which he said would be a European solution to a European problem.

"It makes sense, there can only be gains," he told the Dublin parliament.

After the first cabinet meeting of Greece's new government today, Mr Tsipras said its top priorities are negotiating with creditors to resolve the country's debt problems and dealing with what said is a humanitarian crisis.

The prime minster said he was ready with a four-year fiscal plan that would balance the budget, when not accounting for costs of servicing debt.

But he said Greece would not meet a bailout requirement to produce surpluses.

The plan also aims to find "realistic proposals" on how to make Greece's huge rescue loans easier to manage.

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