Austrian chancellor: I stand by the Greek people

The Austrian Chancellor has issued a strong declaration of solidarity with Greece, hours before meeting Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens later today.

Werner Faymann told Austrian broadcaster ORF that Greece should be given more support, given the extent of the damage suffered by its people since the debt crisis began.

Faymann criticised some of the measures which Greece’s lenders – the IMF, ECB and EC – are demanding, saying:

“I know there were a number of proposals, also from the institutions, that I also don’t find in order.”

“High joblessness, 30-40 percent (with) no health insurance and then raising VAT on medicines. People in this difficult situation cannot understand that.”

Relations between Greece and her creditors are increasingly fraught, as Athens resists pressure to cut its pensions bill by 1% of GDP, and to raise sales taxes.

Last night, EC president Jean-Claude Juncker accused the Greek government of misleading the public over exactly what is being demanded.

Faymann’s intervention, and his visit to Greece today, are a last-ditch attempt to end the standoff with international creditors before eurozone finance ministers meet tomorrow.

He declared:

“I stand on the side of the Greek people who in this difficult position are being proposed more things detrimental to society.”

Faymann did also emphasise that Greece must meet its commitments under its current bailout plan, citing the need to fight fraud and a fair taxation system where everyone pays their fair share.

But the priority is to “avoid a catastrophe”.

And asked whether Greece’s leaders can deliver a compromise in time, he said:

“I assume that someone who is elected lives up to his responsibility.”