Greece’s main opposition leader is certain his party will be in power next year and his first order of a business will be to seek a cut in the $325 billion it owes international lenders. If that fails, SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras said, Greece won’t pay and will walk away from the debt.
Speaking to the Sunday edition of To Vima, and essentially repeating what he recently said, Tsipras said Greece’s debt is unsustainable despite two bailouts of $325 billion from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that has failed to make a dent in the $430 billion it owes.
Those loans came with attached harsh austerity measures that have worsened a seven-year recession and created record unemployment and deep poverty.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, and his partner, the PASOK Socialists, also said they want a debt cut even though the Premier said the economy this year will start to recover as the loans run out.
The crisis was, in large part, caused by alternating administrations of New Democracy and PASOK hiring hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes but despite often violent protests over the past two years against them, they remain the rulers of Greece although PASOK’s popularity has plummeted and New Democracy is now behind SYRIZA in polls.
The present coalition government of conservatives and socialists could collapse this year if SYRIZA wins the May European election by a big margin, Tsipras said. That comes at the same time as municipal elections in Greece with signs showing the Leftists making big gains because of its opposition to the pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions imposed by the government.
Tsipras, the European Left’s candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission, pledges to keep Greece in the Eurozone and says he doesn’t seek special treatment for Greece. He adds, though, that if Greece’s Eurozone partners don’t agree on further cutting the country’s debt, he will unilaterally stop servicing it.
Since the Troika has already warned that reneging on the loans would force Greece out of the Eurozone, Tsipras hasn’t explained the contradiction of how he would stop paying but still keep Greece in the financial bloc if the other 17 countries kick him out. He also hasn’t offered any solution as to how he would finance the government that is also locked out of private markets.
The debt cutting negotiations will be the subject of an emergency EU summit that Tsipras will demand if SYRIZA, forms a government.
“This summit will not be the end of the crisis. But it will be the start of a well-planned, level-headed but also tough negotiation in which we will make the demands,” he said, without offering any details.
Asked what would be his trump card in the negotiations, Tsipras replied: “Europe knows Greece is the powerful energy partner of the year 2020,” referring to prospects for significant gas and oil finds in the Eastern Mediterranean, still at a stage of early exploration.
On the domestic front, Tsipras said he expects his party to have a majority in Parliament, but said his government would include technocrats from outside the party. He said his would be a left-leaning government but added that his party would also represent a more conservative part of the electorate that has been disappointed in the governing conservatives and socialists.