Greek minister sends Dickensian jibe for Xmas

ATHENS -  The Greek finance minister's Christmas cards this year feature Ebenezer Scrooge, the tight-fisted protagonist of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", in a what is clearly a jibe directed at the country's creditors.

Some of Greece's EU partners, especially Germany, objected to tax handouts by Alexis Tsipras' government to islands struggling with an influx of migrants, a measure that has triggered a row with the debt-ridden nation's creditors.

The minister, Euclide Tsakalotos, sent e-cards to staff and journalists with an early illustration by renowned caricaturist John Leech for "A Christmas Carol", showing the ghost of Scrooge's dead partner telling him that he must change his ways or face eternal damnation.

"Perhaps in all of our Christmas tales there is a terrifying character like Ebenezer who receives the season's spirit in an immense solitude, and closed like an oyster. And maybe our Christmas tale is no exception," read the card's caption. "But, dear friends and colleagues, our wishes go beyond all the Ebenezers of this world. We don't give up on our wishes," it said.

The tax measure was announced earlier this month, alongside a one-off bonus to the poorest of pensioners, after the government found itself with a 1.0-billion-euro ($1.04-billion) tax surplus.

Tsipras said it was policy "to return every single euro of surplus to the weakest". But Greece's international creditors said they had not been fully informed of Tsipras' intentions ahead of the announcement. In response, the eurozone group said it would suspend a recently-announced debt relief scheme for Athens.

In "A Christmas Carol", the miserly Scrooge finally redeems himself, starts lavishing gifts on the poor and treats his fellow humans with kindness and generosity.

It may be a coincidence, but on Christmas Eve cracks also seemed to appear in the Eurogroup's unforgiving stance.

Sources there said Saturday their concerns had been "alleviated" by a letter from the Greek authorities explaining the tax measures.

As a consequence, they said, the group would resume working on debt measures for Greece -- but only after Christmas.


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