ATHENS: Europe needs a “New Deal” to rise above the economic crisis and austerity policies, the European Left Party’s Greek candidate for EU commission chairman, Alexis Tsipras, says in an interview.
“There is no way we will exit this crisis if we do not proceed to a European New Deal,” the 40-year-old radical leftist party leader told Agence France-Presse, referring to the 1930’s stimulus programs enacted to help the United States overcome the Great Depression.
Europe needs “a new agreement on investment funding to benefit employment and social security,” he said.
Tsipras is a leading opponent of European austerity politics and particularly of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen by many in Greece as a leading proponent of the cost-cutting drive.
And based on the latest polls, even if Tsipras fails to replace EU Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso, he could well become Greece’s next prime minister.
Greece’s multi-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout in 2010 saved the country from bankruptcy, but the austerity measures dictated by the creditors plunged the country into a deep recession.
Unemployment has climbed to over 27 percent, nearly tripling since the crisis began and the highest in four decades.
“Greece is an example to avoid, this should not happen in other countries,” Tsipras said.
“The response to this Europe of intolerance, of social dissolution, is the abolition of austerity policies,” he said.
‘Demolish’ bailout deal
The leftist leader says he wants to ‘demolish’ the EU-IMF bailout deal that has brought misery to thousands of Greek families.
“We want to demolish the bailout deal that dramatically changed the life of Greeks. We will carry out reforms against corruption and waste without slashing public finances that are necessary,” he vows.
“The solution is not monetary competition but solidarity between European states,” he says.
Tsipras took over the radical left party Syriza in 2008, two years before the economic crisis made landfall in Greece.
At the time, Syriza polled at around four percent.
But in the wake of sweeping anger in Greece over the collapse of public finances, the party shot to 26 percent in the last national elections in 2012, coming close to victory.
It has consistently led in the latest polls too.
‘Ready to rule’
“We are ready to take the reins of power, better prepared than two years ago,” Tsipras says.
The firebrand leftist leader has also repeatedly called for an international conference to cancel the debt of the recession-hit countries of southern Europe.
His point of reference is the 1953 London conference at which 22 countries including Greece wrote off a large part of Germany’s debt after World War II to allow its economy to recover.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces risky local elections in May in which Tsipras’s Syriza is poised to score major gains.
The prime minister has ruled out the holding of early general elections before his term expires in 2016, but it looks likely that early ballots will be required next year to enable parliament to elect a new president.
Tsipras, whose Syriza party leads in opinion polls over the ruling conservative New Democracy party, has also argued that international creditors have committed a “crime” against southern Europe and should pay reparations for hardships endured under austerity regimes.
As his first act if elected prime minister, Tsipras has pledged to “abolish” the bailout agreement.
Syriza was previously a loosely knit coalition of moderate Communists, Trotskyists, ecologists and other leftist groups, and some of its members have expressed strong views against the euro.