As the country's negotiations with its creditors reaches its most crucial phase, the Prime Minister Alexis Tsirpas addressed SYRIZA’s parliamentary group today, and sought to defend his government’s handling of the negotiations with the country’s creditors.
Tsirpas began by seeking to defend his party’s decision to trigger elections in January by refusing to vote for the government’s candidate for a president of the republic. Tsipras argued that it was SYRIZA’s ‘duty’ to seek a political change as the previous government had set the country on a damaging course. He noted that the previous New Democracy government had committed to a 3% primary surplus for 2015, a target which - according to Tsipras that could only have been met with an ‘explosion of authoritarianism.’
He acknowledged that in coming to power his administration had taken on a difficult challenge, but one that they had expected.
The Prime Minister went on to highlight his government’s achievements, arguing that his administration had begun to address injustices in the public sector (a reference to the re-hiring of the laid-off cleaning women and others), had passed legislation addressing corruption in sports, overcrowding in prisons and legislation granting Greek citizenship to the children of immigrants. He also referred to the recent re-opening of the shuttered public broadcaster ERT and the government’s ‘fight’ against the establishment and entrenched interests.
Tsipras once again ruled out the prospect of elections, saying that the next four years could prove to be a ‘real democratic spring’. He called on Greeks to unite behind his government to restore 'true democracy' to the country.
The PM then turned towards the issue of Greece’s debt negotiations with its creditors saying that any new agreement with the lenders could not simply be a continuation of memorandum policies. In a line that drew applause Tsipras said that the time had come for the ‘crisis to be paid for by the oligarchy’ and not working and middle class taxpayers.
Tsipras also had combative words for the lenders, denouncing the ECB’s decision at the beginning of February to choose the tactic of ‘financial asphyxiation’ while Greece was still in a programme and meeting its requirements.
He also accused the IMF of ‘criminal responsibilities’ for the dire situation in the country, noting the Fund’s own admission of past errors.
Now, he said, Greece’s European lenders were seeking an ‘IMF a la carte’ insisting on the Fund’s continued participation in Greece’s bailout but rejecting its recommendations over a debt restructuring.
“How can they accept the harsh measures of the IMF, but not its proposals for a restructuring of the debt?” he asked. However he said that despite the tough words coming from Berlin and Frankfurt he said he believed there were still people working towards finding a fair solution.
It was time now for Europe to have a serious discussion not only about the future of Greece, but the future of the Eurozone.
‘The historian of the future will show that small Greece fought for all of the peoples of Europe,” he said.
Tsipras said his government was committed to seeking a lasting solution that would put an end to austerity and to all discussions over a potential Grexit.
The PM maintained that his government would not be pressured into making decision in the stress of the moment, noting that his government had a ‘four year mandate’.
“We received a debt colony,” he said, “our goal is to turn over an economy which will have prospects for sustainable growth. That is our wager which will be determined to a large degree by the support of the Greek people.”
Tsipras concluded maintaining that the real negotiation starts now and that it would not only determine the future of Greece, but the future of all European peoples.