Greece’s political leaders failed to find common ground on reforms to Greece’s social security system but agreed on future discussions over a Constitutional Revision as well as on a united approach to the refugee crisis, during a meeting on Saturday afternoon.
Greek Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, Panos Kammenos, the leader of SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), New Democracy interim President Yiannis Plakiotakis, PASOK leader Fofi Genimmata, “To Potami” president Stavros Theodorakis and Union of Centrists President Vasilis Leventis conversed under the supervision of the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
The meeting, which began with a slight delay falling 15 minutes behind schedule, lasted over six hours.
Social security reform proved to be the thorn. Pension reductions are one of the onerous measures the Greek government is being called to implement to secure the flow of bailout funds.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked the participating leaders to co-sign a joint declaration against the reduction of pensions. Gennimata and Plakiotaki’s refused to support such a tactic.
Tsipras reportedly went through all the pension reductions that have occurred under the two bailouts that PASOK and New Democracy governments had adopted and claimed that if they do not co-sign the initiative they are essentially supporting further reductions.
The Greek Prime Minister also proposed the creation of two committees, that would include representatives for all parties, to examine suggestions on social security reforms and constitutional changes. With the exception of Leventis, the opposing leaders rejected the initiative, Kathimerini newspaper reports.
Gennimata noted that social security reform was not discussed in depth and thus there cannot be a joint announcement. She further claimed her party will not vote for pension reductions. Plakiotakis noted that New Democracy is against any reductions as well but this issue should be discussed in the parliament.
Tensions also arose outside of the meeting, when Greek government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili and New Democracy MP Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a verbal altercation soon after the meeting began. Koumoutsakos was bothered by Gerovasilis’ move to inform journalists about what Tsipras would talk about, noting that the parties should respect the ongoing process of the meeting.
The joint statement that resulted from the meeting notes the attending members agreed that there needs to be a vast approval of any Constitutional Revision, including changes to the electoral rule.
Changes to the election rule which dictates that the party that gathers the most votes gets a bonus of 50 parliamentary seats. The law has been a contentious subject for a long time and one of SYRIZA’s promises prior to their ascent to power was to remove this electoral bonus.
Plakiotakis argued after the meeting that a change to the electoral law is not a priority at the moment and the government should focus on establishing the hot spots on the Greek islands.
The joint statement on the refugee crisis calls for the European Union to take an initiative to end the war in Syria as well as to adopt a uniform and solidary approach to the arriving refugees.
The political leaders also urge the EU to cooperate with Turkey to create a safe mechanism that will transport refugees from Turkey into the Union. However, the EU must also acknowledge the violations of Turkish authorities during migrant smuggling operations. Finally, joint sea patrols with Turkey are out of the question and the EU must assist Greece in protecting its borders.