A. Tsipras, lider de Syriza en Grecia.
Greece Opposition Leader Calls for European Debt Renegotiation Summit
Published: January 25, 2013
The 38-year-old leftist opposition leader in Greece, who could become its next prime minister on a wave of simmering popular fury over the Greek government’s austerity measures, called on Friday for a European summit to ease the crushing debts that threaten not only his country but all
The opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, whose opposition to international bailouts propelled his party, Syriza, to win the second biggest bloc of parliamentary seats in the June 2012 elections, also said he did not believe Greece would be forced to withdraw from the group of 17 countries that use the euro currency. Greece’s heavy indebtedness has raised fears that the country could leave or be expelled from the so-called euro zone, a possibility that many economists regard as a threat to the euro’s survival.
“They say I am the most dangerous man in Europe,” Mr. Tsipras said in an interview with the Editorial Board of The New York Times. “I don’t know if you will come to this conclusion today or not. What I feel is dangerous is the policy of austerity in Europe. The Greek people have paid a heavy price. And it’s dangerous for the stability of the global and the European economy.”
Mr. Tsipras was visiting as part of a trip to the United States that has included meetings in Washington with officials of the International Monetary Fund and the Treasury Department and with audiences at the Brookings Institution and Columbia University, as well as with Greek-American groups.
The trip is part of a publicity campaign aimed at bolstering his credibility as a mainstream politician and countering what his aides call the fictional portrayals of him as a financial bomb-thrower in Greece’s mainstream press, which is controlled by the so-called oligarch families of privilege who own most of the wealth in the country and fear they have much to lose if Syriza ascends to power.
Given the fragility of the conservative-led coalition that took over after the June elections, any no-confidence vote in Parliament could lead to new elections that give Mr. Tsipras the latitude to form a government. Public opinion polls put Syriza’s popularity at 28 percent, about the same as the current coalition leader, the conservative New Democracy party.
Earlier this month Mr. Tsipras visited Germany, Europe’s most powerful economy, which has been the driving force behind the insistence that Greece must endure sacrifices and impose fiscal discipline in exchange for help on its debt burden. Mr. Tsipras has argued that the strategy has not only been an expensive failure but has increased Greece’s indebtedness relative to the size of its economy, where joblessness, wage reductions and cuts in pensions and benefits have stoked widespread anger.
After six years of recession in Greece, Mr. Tsiprias said, “we are witnessing a humanitarian crisis.”
The symptoms were on display this week in Athens, where striking subway workers, outraged over public-employee pay cuts, paralyzed a public transit system that carries 1 million riders a day. The government used an emergency decree and riot police to force the strikers back to work on Friday, but in a backlash other public transport unions went out on strike.
Mr. Tsipras said he would like to see a summit meeting that would result in an end to the austerity approach, which he said is needed to restart economic growth and avert a deeper economic malaise.
“We are suggesting an overall plan for a European solution,” he said. “A European conference on debt that would include all of the countries of the region facing a significant debt issue.”
He drew an analogy to the London Debt Agreement of 1953, in which postwar Germany’s debt was reduced by 50 percent and the repayment stretched out over 30 years, and he said that any summit agreement should include a clause that debt repayment depends on the rate of economic growth.
Mr. Tsipras said the German government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, has held the possibility of expulsion from the euro zone over Greece as leverage for enforcing its austerity solution, but that in his view neither Germany nor its supporters want to see Greece exit the euro.
“The constant threats, that they will kick us out of the euro zone, is a strategy with no foundation,” he said. “It’s just a way to blackmail us, a false way to blackmail us.” The euro zone, he said, “is like a chain with 17 links — if you break one link the chain falls apart.”