Greece's exit from the harsh bailout programmes which kept the country afloat since 2010 is a reality and not a communication trick, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday.
Responding to critics of his government's post-bailout economic policy and protesters who rallied on Saturday evening as he was delivering a keynote speech at the opening of the annual trade fair, Tsipras assured that the era of painful austerity was over.
From now on, the focus is on necessary, feasible, and balanced measures which will strengthen the growth path of the economy, he stressed.
"This is the return of independence to the Greek governments," he said at the press conference that was broadcast live on Greece's national broadcaster ERT.
On August 20, Greece exited the third of the painful bailout programmes under which remarkable fiscal adjustment was achieved and structural reforms to support growth were introduced in exchange for multi-billion financial aid by international lenders.
The Greek leader also responded to demonstrators who clashed with police forces on Saturday chanting slogans against the name deal reached in June between Athens and Skopje for the renaming of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Republic of North Macedonia.
The agreement which needs to be approved in an upcoming referendum at Skopje and by the Greek parliament in coming months will put an end to a long-standing dispute between the two neighboring countries over the use of the name "Macedonia".
Many Greeks, according to opinion polls, still fear that the use of the name "Macedonia" which is also the name of a northern Greek province, may lead to territorial claims.
"No one should play with citizens' sensitivities on national issues. We have an important agreement that will give a significant impetus to Thessaloniki, fully assures the historic heritage, opens the road to Thessaloniki and northern Greece to become the growth engine of development and paves the way for Greece to become a leading force in the Balkans region," Tsipras noted.
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