Greece is heading for an exit from the financial assistance programmes “that will be as clear as Kastellorizo’s sky,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday on the island, during a visit steeped in symbolism. He promised that he would be back in August to formally announce Greece’s exit from the memorandums and surveillance, removing the “stain” on the island as the place where Greeks first learned they had been forced to accept a bailout.
“Today, eight years after the Greek people learned the bad news about the memoranda from this island, we have come to a point when we are leaving the difficult days behind us (…) we have entered into the final stretch before a final and clean exit from the period of aggressive austerity and suffocating surveillance, which had such a heavy cost,” Tsipras said.
Now that the country had reached calmer waters and a safe harbour, he added, it could plan the next stages of the journey using the country’s needs and dreams, especially those of young people, as its compass.
This translated into a need for social justice and equitable growth, especially in outlying regions of the country, and projects such as the new desalination plants on Kastellorizo, said Tsipras, who was on the island to inaugurate the two new units.
He emphasised the importance of the new units, noting that they would improve the quality of the island’s water and give it greater independence, as well as slashing the annual costs of supplying the island with water. He noted that the state had paid 3.0 million euros to have water transported to Kastellorizo since 2012, while the desalination units would secure a year-round supply for a third of that amount.
Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Tsipras noted the example of good cooperation given by the local communities on the Greek and Turkish shores, in Kastellorizo and on Turkey’s coast. The political leaderships of the two sides sometimes failed to follow this good example, Tsipras added.
Greece, he said, can defend and does defend its sovereign rights and territorial integrity. “We do not bargain, nor do we give away a single inch of our territory…. Of course, Greece neither threatens but nor is it afraid of anyone,” was his clear message.
Greece was a pillar of stability in the surrounding region, which possessed a strong deterrent force as well as strong support and allies in the international community, he added.
“Aggressiveness and provocativeness are not a sign of strength….the other day, the Turkish prime minister picked up the phone to offer condolences for an unlucky moment for the Armed Forces [the death of a Greek Air Force pilot]. This was a sign of goodwill and such signs should be constant,” he added.