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Syriza government kicks off European charm offensive

GREECE’S new anti-austerity government kicked off a European charm offensive in Paris today.

Just a day after Greece appeared on a collision course with its creditors, new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras toned down the rhetoric by vowing to pay back Greece’s debt to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which, along with the European Commission, form the “troika” of Greece’s creditors.

“It has never been our intention to act unilaterally,” Mr Tsipras said.

But he insisted Greece needed greater leeway to tackle problems such as tax evasion, corruption and policies which favour the wealthy few.

“We need time to create our own medium-term recovery programme,” he said.

His cause was, however, not helped by the junior partner in Greece’s “odd couple” coalition saying today that it wanted a tax amnesty on undeclared income deposited in Greek banks.

Right-wing Independent Greeks party chief Panos Kammenos said he would propose legislation cutting the tax on such income to 15 per cent from 42 per cent with an exemption on further taxes for the next four years.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis brought forward a trip to Paris, London and Rome.

He met French Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron today, before heading to London and Rome.

Mr Sapin has already said the EU should be open to restructuring Greek debt but has insisted there is no question of annulling it.

Mr Tsipras has booked meetings with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

However, neither he nor Mr Varoufakis are intending to visit Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out fresh debt relief on Saturday, warning: “There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt.

“I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation.”

Greece has been promised another €7.2 billion (£5.4bn) from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank, but this is dependent on a review at the end of February.

Mr Varoufakis has said his government does not want the loans, but there are doubts that Greece’s economy can survive without them.

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