Greece's Tsipras to chart post-bailout strategy in keynote speech

Thessaloniki (Greece) (AFP) –


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to unveil his government's post-bailout economic strategy in a keynote speech on Saturday amid protests against a controversial planned name deal with neighbouring Macedonia.

Speaking at the annual Thessaloniki Trade Fair, where economic policy for the coming year is traditionally announced, Tsipras is expected to rollout a plan to scale back cuts to work benefits, enforced from 2010 onwards under the terms of Greece's three international bailouts.

"(It) is a historic moment... after eight whole years, we can now plan (and) envisage Greece as we wish it, within, of course, the fiscal frame we have decided," Tsipras said Saturday during a visit to the fair ahead of his keynote address.

"We are leaving behind recession and austerity," he said.

The 44-year-old leader is trying to bounce back from poor ratings exacerbated by Greece's worst fire tragedy in July in which nearly 100 people died near Athens.

He reshuffled his cabinet last month, and last week indicated he would bolster labour safeguards and raise the minimum wage.

Elections are not scheduled for another year but there is speculation a snap ballot could be held by May.

Thousands of police are deployed in Thessaloniki as separate protests will be held by unions and citizen groups opposed to a recent diplomatic agreement aiming to end a quarter-century name row with neighbouring Macedonia.

The preliminary agreement in June, to be confirmed by a referendum by Skopje later this month and a Greek parliamentary vote early in 2019, will see the Balkan state renamed North Macedonia.

The tiny landlocked country had joined the United Nations in 1993 as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece also has a northern province named Macedonia, the heart of Alexander the Great's ancient kingdom, and many Greeks fear the deal will officially enable Skopje to lay claim to their cultural heritage.