“There can be no doubt that this Europe is not the Europe we dreamed of, is not the Europe we want. There is also no doubt, however, that no other path is open other than to fight from within to change it,” Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday, after the 27 European leaders concluded an anniversary summit by signing a declaration of unity.
Tsipras said that he had put the crucial issue of the EU’s social acquis and whether this was equally accessible to all EU member-states at the centre of the discussion. “Obviously, the answer I was given was positive but it remains to be seen whether rhetoric and the action continue to diverge. We will see this very soon,” he added.
Regardless, he said, the reply given by the heads of European institutional bodies, saying that Greece was no exception to Europe’s social acquis, “encourages us to continue in a struggle that concerns the workers and people of Greece as much as the workers and all the peoples of Europe.”
Tsipras was also critical of trade unions in Greece, which he said were “in the rear guard and not on the front lines, as in other countries in Europe.”
In spite of everything, Tsipras added, “we are engaged in a struggle and will continue to fight in order to protect the founding values of Europe, the social acquis and to regain the reliability, the policy, trade unionism and institutional organs of the EU.” Europe’s biggest enemy, he said, was the neoliberal direction that the EU had adopted in recent years.
Tsipras welcomed the clear references within the Rome Declaration to a need to reinforce Europe’s social character, noting that such references “had been missing in recent years, from texts written in a purely technocratic language” and noted that the struggle must continue.
Asked whether he had concerns and doubts about the final wording of the Declaration, Tsipras replied affirmatively and said he had given thought to whether he should sign it. “Primarily, however, I believe that we succeeded in including an important reference to the necessity for a social Europe,” he said, noting that it was “an ongoing battle and we will continue to fight.”
In a message for March 25, the anniversary when Greece celebrates its 1821 revolution and the war of independence again Ottoman rule, Tsipras said that the day celebrated a Greek revolution that had been linked over time with the struggles at the heart of Europe, for independence, freedom and social justice.
“This struggle, in different conditions today, a struggle for national sovereignty and independence is dominant and will be dominant with the framework of the EU,” he said.
The 60th anniversary since the founding of the European Union was also an opportunity, Tsipras said, to return to its founding values.
“Now is the time to reflect upon and recognise these founding values and return to them. We cannot dream of Europe’s future without focusing on human dignity and social rights. It is necessary for us to rediscover these values, to rediscover the social model,” he said.
The current danger was far-right populism, the Greek prime minister said, and this was a phenomenon linked to the policies currently being implemented. If Europe’s leaders were unable to provide European citizens with a vision, he warned, “there will be room for anti-political and anti-European forces to emerge.”