Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras inaugurated on Thursday the newly delivered Tempi Tunnel and the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway, which will now make the drive only four hours and 15 minutes from Athens to Thessaloniki and vice versa.
“The delivery of this part of the road completes the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway, whose construction started 70 years ago… These works belong to the Greek people,” Tsipras underlined.
Tsipras used the occasion to remind the public of his negotiations for completing the second review of the Greek programme. “Greece is finally attaining a comprehensive agreement that opens the way for an exit from programmes of economic supervision…It is regaining the strength to stand on its own feet, using its own strength,” he said.
“We will not tire nor back down … we are determined to defend the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people and to not let anyone play games at the expense of the Greek economy,” Tsipras said, adding that the completion of the review was “very close, whether some want it or not.”
While the government could not claim credit for initiating these projects, he said, it did claim credit for “unravelling” a complicated skein of obstacles and difficulties that prevented their completion, through a tough negotiation with concessionaires and banks. The government had managed to avert the danger that these major infrastructure projects would become irretrievably stalled, which would have required the return of 8.5 billion euros and leave the projects unfinished, he added.
Through this process it reached an agreement that reduced the demands for compensation by 764 million euros, and with the close cooperation and assistance of European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu and the European Commission was able to secure funding to begin the works anew, he explained. “We proved and are proving that, even in times of difficulty, serious work and awareness of one’s responsibility to the country, the citizens and the public interest can bring positive and productive results,” the PM said.
The completion of the project was perhaps the strongest symbolism that Greece can stand on its own two feet and succeed, he added.