The first joint front against austerity policies and in favour of adopting alternative policies in the EU was formed by the governments of Greece and Portugal on Monday, following a joint admission by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Portuguese counterpart António Costa that the memorandums didn’t provide the solutions to the countries’ problems.
The two leaders met in Athens to discuss economic, political and refugee issues, as well as the need to have more solidarity in the EU and form a wider front of progressive forces which will promote alternative policies in the region.
Speaking during a joint press conference after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Tsipras asked for the July agreement on Greece’s economic program to be implemented, warning that he will not accept conditions on starting a talk on debt relief, as the deal didn’t include any conditions. He said once talks on debt start, they will lead to some conclusion.
The premier then continued by taking a jab at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that despite admitting its mistake on the Greek program, it insists on its mistake, but at some time “we must get serious”. He then said the Greek economy is outperforming its projected targets and insinuated that there might be some sides that do not want the first program review to conclude, so as to avoid starting debt relief talks.
Commenting also on the economy, Costa said the adjustment program implemented in his country left behind serious problems, such as a jump in public debt from 97 pct of GDP to 130 pct, poverty, unemployment and social problems.
Answering questions on the refugee crisis, the Portuguese prime minister said his country will welcome a significant number of refugees from Greece. Tsipras publically thanked him for the move and noted that Portugal, a country with a small population and economic problems is welcoming refugees, while other countries with better economies are refusing to take them in.
Costa urged the EU to rise to the occasion and not allow the entire burden of the refugee crisis to fall on one country like Greece, because this is a European problem.
Commenting on the joint declaration signed by the two leaders, Tsipras emphasized the common targets highlighted for a change of policy in the EU and on the need to end austerity policies. The only divergence between the two countries, the Greek premier noted, is on the issue of debt relief, with Portugal openly being against cutting it, while the Greek side believes it is unsustainable.
Asked about the incident in Idomeni during the weekend when protesting refugees and migrants were pushed back by FYROM border police with teargas and rubber bullets, Tsipras said that Idomeni is and continues to constitute an embarrassment for European culture, adding the cause of the situation in the makeshift camp is the unilateral actions of some countries who decided to close the borders. He then stressed that this is a situation that cannot be changed and that the government is doing all it can to convince all these people that they have to move to organized facilities.
Tsipras also said that in this effort, apart from the objective difficulties, the government has to deal with some NGOs which are doing the opposite job by trying to convince those people to remain there, regardless of the fact that this move poses enormous risks, as it appears that these NGOs are more concerned with receiving funding, rather than helping.