Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party that is battling for the lead in polls with the New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, told the New York Times that he wants all European heads of state to hold a summit to ease crushing austerity measures for Greece and other European countries.
Tsipras, 38, is championing the anti-austerity cause but has yet to offer any solutions on how he would keep Greece’s economy from collapsing without the $325 billion in international bailouts being put up by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which has insisted on pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions in return.
The conditions have roiled Greek society and have Samaras trying to quell social unrest and rising political violence and left-and-right-wing extremism. Tsipras told The Times editorial board that he doesn’t believe Greece would ever be forced out of the Eurozone of the 17 countries using the euro although he wants to redo the terms of the bailouts. He has softened his previous stance that he would toss out the bailouts and the austerity measures if his party ever comes to power.
“They say I am the most dangerous man in Europe,” Tsipras said in his interview. “I don’t know if you will come to this conclusion today or not. What I feel is dangerous is the policy of austerity in Europe. The Greek people have paid a heavy price. And it’s dangerous for the stability of the global and the European economy.” There were no reports on whether he talked about a spate of bombings or his party’s support for striking Metro workers who were forced back to work by riot police after shutting down the subway system for eight days.
Tsipras was visiting New York as part of a trip to the United States that has included meetings in Washington with officials of the IMF and the Treasury Department and with audiences at the Brookings Institution and Columbia University, as well as with Greek-American groups.
Speaking at Columbia University, Tsipras said that Greece’s crisis had not been caused by high public spending but as a result of low revenues because governments allowed tax evasion and failed to target wealthy Greeks. He praised America’a reaction to the fallout from its financial crisis and compared it to the Eurozone’s decision to rely on austerity, which he criticized.
“Our trip to the USA has already proved useful for us and for others who had heard about SYRIZA from third parties and now had the opportunity to hear from us directly,” he said.