Facing a new “deadline” (doomsday is now set for Sunday) to submit a viable proposal to EU creditors, Alexis Tsipras addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
The embattled Greek PM once again called for debt relief (something Angela Merkel roundly rejected yesterday despite the IMF’s contention that writedowns are a precondition for “sustainability”) and claimed that Greece was being used as a “laboratory for testing austerity.”
Greeks, “stood up and were counted” last Sunday and it is now incumbent upon Brussels to “listen to what they said,” Tsipras continued, referencing the referendum which The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says the PM did not in fact plan on winning.
Here’s more from NY Times on Tsipras’ defiant speech:
“We want an agreement that will give a final end to the crisis and show there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr. Tsipras told the packed chamber. But he indicated that a deal could not come at any price, noting that Greece had been “transformed into a laboratory for testing austerity over the past years.”
“The money that was given to Greece never went to the people,” Mr. Tsipras said, drawing a mix of booing and applause. “The money was given to save Greek and European banks.”
The Greek leader declared that he was not seeking a “rupture” with Europe but rather a “socially just and economically viable agreement without the mistakes of the past, that caused a recessionary spiral.”
Any deal should reflect the “strong mandate” of the Greek people, he added, a reference to the resounding rejection of austerity measures proposed by creditors in a referendum last Sunday.
And more from the Irish Times:
“We are determined not to have a clash with Europe but to tackle head on the establishment in our own country and to change the mindset which will take us and the euro zone down,” Tsipras said to applause from the left.
He promised to deliver detailed reform proposals in the next 48 hours and mostly eschewed the angry rhetoric that has alienated many European partners, although he criticised attempts to “terrorise” Greeks into voting for “never-ending austerity”.
Mr Tsipras acknowledged his radical government’s share of responsibility for what had gone wrong in its 5 and a half months in office but said the bulk of Greece’s problems lay in a failed austerity policy imposed over the last 5 and a half years of crisis.
He was also strongly critical of Greece’s failings as a society, citing a history of clientelism, corruption, chronic tax evasion that had “run riot”, inequality and “the nexus of political and economic power”.
Finally, here’s Reuters with a recap:
I find myself here only a few days after the resounding verdict of the Greek people, after a decision we took to give the floor directly, to ask the Greek people directly, for the their views and be an active part of the negotiations affecting their own future. A few days after these negotiations we’ve now been given a mandate to redouble our efforts to get a socially just and economically sustainable solution to the Greek problem, without repeating the mistakes of the past which condemn the Greek economy to a period of never-ending impasse of austerity which trapped our economy in a recessionary vicious circle.
Let me assure the house that, quite apart from the crisis, we will continue with our reform undertakings. Let’s not forget that for the past five years the Greek people have made a tremendous effort for adjustment but this has exhausted the resilience and the patience of the Greek people.
We demand an agreement with our neighbours but one which gives us a sign that we are on a long-lasting basis exiting from the crisis, which will demonstrate that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
The proposals we have made to our partners are credible reforms with an acceptable degree of burden sharing without recessionary effects. We need to ensure the medium term funding of our country with a development and growth programme because otherwise we won’t exit from this crisis. Our prime objective must be to combat unemployment and to encourage entrepreneurship.
I am not one of those politicians who claim that those responsible for the woes of Greece have been wicked foreigners. Greece has got to the verge of bankruptcy because for many many years, the governments of Greece have been creating a clientelist governments, they have strengthened the hands of corruption, they have created and nurtured a nexus between political and economic power.
They have allowed tax evasion to run riot and it’s not right. In accordance with a survey by Credit Suisse, 10 percent of Greeks currently have 56 percent of the national wealth and 10 percent in a time of austerity, they have not shared the pressure.
This is a major injustice and the programmes, the bailout programmes have not made things better. They were supposed to bring about reforms but those reforms have not made things better, on the contrary they have made things worse. We were supposed to bring about reforms but those reforms have not, and too, the tax collection mechanisms which collapsed under the excessive zeal of enlightened terrified national officials.
None of the reforms have helped when it comes to the nexus between the political establishments, the oligarchs and the banks in that three-sided ring. None of the reforms have improved the functioning, the efficiency of the mechanisms of the state which have now become inured to working in the selfish interests, the vested interests rather than the common good.
European history is a history of conflict but conflict leading to compromise, it’s also a history of convergence and enlargements, it is a history of unity and not divisions, and this is why we talk about a united Europe and let us not allow it to become a divided Europe.
At this time, we are called upon to produce a productive and fair compromise which will avoid a break-off in negotiations and this is in line with the traditions of European Union.
All of us have taken the measure of the situation and I believe that together we can rise to this historical challenge.
While Tsipras’ 12 minute speech was full of the same bravado and bluster the world has come to expect from the Greek PM, it paled in comparison to the tongue lashing he received from others in attendance. German MEP Manfred Weber for instance, accused Tsipras of “looking for failure” and trying to hurt “nurses in Poland” before warning the PM about the perils of associating with Fidel Castro. Here’s are some choice excerpts courtesy of FT:
The prime minister of Greece should apologise for those utterly unacceptable statements [terrorists]. Unfortunately he has passed over them in silence
You are destroying confidence in Europe. You’re talking about dignity, but dignity means truth, honesty. You said that the banks are closing because the evil ECB is ratcheting up pressure. You said the banks would be open on Tuesday, it is now Wednesday, you are not being honest with the Greek people.
Mr Tsipras, the extremists of Europe are applauding you. Fidel Castro wrote a message to congratulate you on your triumph. It seems to me you are surrounding yourself with the wrong friends.
If you’re talking about a debt haircut, be honest. Its not extraneous financial institutions that will pay. It’s Portugal… Spain… It’s the nurses in Poland. You have to think about the dignity of people in other European countries
How can you tell Bulgaria in terms of solidarity that Greece cannot countenance further cuts, when in at least 5 other European countries the standard of living is lower than in Greece. The PM of Slovakia is also thinking about a referendum because the citizens are sick of shelling out for the Greeks.
You engage in confrontation, we engage in compromise. You are looking for failure, we are looking for success.
But perhaps the most damning criticism came from former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt who, after essentially daring Tsipras to show up on Twitter Tuesday, proceeded to lambast the Greek premier in an 8 minute speech which culminated in Verhofstadt suggesting that Tsipras was a “false prophet.”
Nigel Farage also spoke, calling the situation the result of an “irreconcilable cultural difference between Greece and Germany.” Farage then proceeded to say quite matter-of-factly, that the “European project is beginning to die.” Here’s the speech:
We’ll close with the following quote from Farage which may well prove quite prescient in the days and weeks ahead:
“You should lead the Greek people out of the eurozone with your head held high, get back your democracy, get back control of your country, give your people the leadership and the hope that they crave. Yes it will be tough for the first few months, but with a devalued currency and friends of Greece all over the world, you will recover.”