Greece is and remains a safe destination and this must be Parliament’s message to those choosing to spend their holidays in the country, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday.
Addressing MPs during a debate on security requested by main opposition New Democracy, Tsipras praised ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis for ending his own address in Parliament on this note but criticised the decision to call for a debate on security in the first place, accusing the main opposition leader of “fishing in the murky waters of the far right.”
“This is the first debate that [Mitsotakis] has asked to be held in Parliament. ND did not ask for a debate on the economy, the refugee problem, unemployment, pensions or the country’s growth prospects. I do not underestimate the issue [of security] but I wonder…What does this initiative seek to achieve; my question is rhetorical because the motives are clear,” Tsipras noted.
A linking of citizens’ security with the refugee crisis “was the argument of the most reactionary forces in Europe. The position of those raising walls in Europe,” Tsipras added, noting that ND was a adopting a xenophobic line.
Replying to Mitsotakis, he said the ND leader’s address was a “monument to danger and doom-mongering” and rejected all suggestion of a relationship between the Left and terrorism, stressing that leftists do not have and have never had relations with anti-establishment and other groups “that do not respect the value of human life.”
The prime minister also replied to criticism regarding the ongoing negotiations to conclude the first review of the Greek programme, saying “ND should not bet all its money on the government’s failure.” Replying to other centre-left opposition leaders, namely PASOK’s Fofi Gennimata and Potami’s Stavros Theodorakis, he urged them to take stock of what was happening in Europe and support the government “because there can’t be a centre-left without a left.”
The review will be completed and the figures due to be released by Eurostat on Thursday will show that there is no basis for ND’s claim that the SYRIZA-ANEL government’s negotiation “destroyed” the economy, Tsipras said.
He pointed to Wednesday’s interview given by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that there was no need for emergency measures for Greece and challenged ND to state its own position at the “difficult turning point.”
Tsipras attributed the better-than-expected results to an increase in tourism and the government’s decision to vote the 100-installment settlement schemes for debts to the state, as well as the 98 pct absorption of EU funds that injected five billion euros in the Greek market.
“The ‘Cassandras’ will be proved wrong. The review will be concluded. We will overcome this obstacle and the very crucial discussion on reducing the debt will begin,” he said, urging the political forces to enter into a discussion on how the country can return to growth.
Wrapping up the debate, he said the message emerging from the discussion in Parliament was that Greece remains a safe country, with a culture of deeply held universal human values that the Greek people had demonstrated during the unprecedented refugee crisis, opening up their arms to welcome what was different and allowing solidarity and humanity to prevail.
“Having this surplus of values as a compass, I believe that we will succeed. This year Greece will break all records for foreign visitors and after six years, Greece will begin the great effort for an exit from the crisis,” he emphasised.
In his own address in Parliament, Mitsotakis said that the state was “absent” on issues of security and public order and referred to the recent events with refugees on the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which had prompted FYROM authorities to carry out acts of policing on Greek territory.
“At the most sensitive point of the borders there was an absence of the forces of law,” he said.
He criticised the government’s handling of the refugee crisis, saying it had allowed “favelas” to spring up in Piraeus and elsewhere, with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) stepping in to do the work of the Greek state.
“The story about so-called humanitarianism must stop; take a walk around Idomeni and Piraeus to see where the humanitarianism is,” he added, particularly criticising the “indefinite” closure of the railway line at Idomeni by protesting refugees and migrants. Mitsotakis also criticised the situation in the Athens district of Exarchia and suggested there was an “open line of communication between some of your echelons and the anti-establishment scene.”
PASOK party leader Fofi Gennimata, in her address, accused the prime minister of “leaving the country on automatic pilot, heading straight off a cliff” and urged him to wrap up the negotiations.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas blamed a “skein” of mistaken political choices and decisions by present and previous governments for the “security or the insecurity felt by citizens.” Potami’s Theodorakis said that SYRIZA, after feeding the voters’ fear and insecurity from the opposition, was trying and failing to present everything as ideal. “Your policy is a mixture of leftist populism with a little bit of battle fatigues and power-mania. Your leftist populism, in spite of the battle fatigues, gives birth to new insecurities,” he said.