As Popularity Sinks, Tsipras Admits Coalition Possible

Alexis Tsipras
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4 (European Parliament)

Greek far-left leader Alexis Tsipras opened the door to a coalition government on Monday but insisted that a deal could only be done on his Syriza party’s terms.

“What are they going to do,” he said of the other parties, “leave the country without a government?” Read more “As Popularity Sinks, Tsipras Admits Coalition Possible”

Tsipras Rules Out Coalition with Establishment Parties

Alexis Tsipras
Greek Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras speaks in Hamburg, Germany, September 29, 2012 (Die Linke)

Outgoing prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday he would not form a coalition government with any of Greece’s establishment parties after snap elections next month.

“I’m not going to be prime minister [if it means] cooperating with parties from the old political system,” he said in a television interview.

But it is difficult to see how the far-left leader could stay in power if he rules out deals with the centrist To Potami or PASOK, Greece’s once-dominant social democrat party. Read more “Tsipras Rules Out Coalition with Establishment Parties”

Tsipras Shirks Responsibility, to Call Early Elections

Alexis Tsipras
Greek Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras speaks in Hamburg, Germany, September 29, 2012 (Die Linke)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to resign on Thursday and call early elections that should give him a fresh mandate to face off a rebellion inside his far-left Syriza party.

He doesn’t need one.

Tsipras got two mandates from Greek voters this year, the first in parliamentary elections in January when Syriza fell only two seats short of an overall majority and the second in July when his government overwhelmingly won a referendum on the terms of its last bailout. Read more “Tsipras Shirks Responsibility, to Call Early Elections”

Greek Referendum Reveals Tsipras’ Political Cowardice

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4 (European Parliament)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras unexpectedly called a referendum on the country’s latest bailout offer on Sunday, exasperating his creditors who said the decision shut the door on a deal to stop the country from entering default next week.

Tsipras’ decision is one of cowardice and desperation. For months, he has tried to make good on a promise to end austerity and failed. Greece’s European Union creditors and the International Monetary Fund insist it broadly honors the program Tsipras’ predecessors committed to: a combination of spending cuts and liberal economic reforms that is designed to prevent another Greek debt crisis in the future. Read more “Greek Referendum Reveals Tsipras’ Political Cowardice”

Greece Still Doesn’t Get It; Tsipras Lashes Out at Creditors

Alexis Tsipras Martin Schulz
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and European Parliament president Martin Schulz deliver a news conference in Brussels, February 4 (European Parliament)

Greece’s radical left-wing prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, still doesn’t seem to understand his country is in no position to make demands.

In an op-ed for France’s Le Monde, he lashes out at other European nations for imposing “harsh punishment” on Greece and forcing it to enact supposedly failed austerity policies in exchange for more aid.

“The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance,” writes Tsipras.

It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people.

Read more “Greece Still Doesn’t Get It; Tsipras Lashes Out at Creditors”

In Moscow, Greece’s Tsipras Hints at Closer Ties with Russia

Alexis Tsipras Vladimir Putin
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8 (Kremlin)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras won mostly symbolic support from Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

Earlier, his foreign minister had joined counterparts from Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in endorsing plans for the construction of a new Russian gas pipeline into Europe, raising concerns in Brussels that countries close to Russia might deviate from the common energy and sanctions policy that was put in place after the country occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Although Tsipras did not suggest Greece could pull out of the sanctions regime, he did reiterate his opposition to the embargo in a joint news conference with Putin, saying, “Greece is a sovereign country with an unquestionable right to implement a multidimensional foreign policy and exploit its geopolitical role.”

Putin said he understood that Greece was forced to go along with the policy and disputed claims that Russia was using its historical relationship with a fellow Christian Orthodox nation to divide Europe.

“I want to assure you that we do not aim to use any internal European Union situations to improve ties with the European bloc as a whole,” the Russian leader said. Read more “In Moscow, Greece’s Tsipras Hints at Closer Ties with Russia”

Tsipras Suggests Greece Could Serve as “Bridge” to Russia

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras criticized European sanctions on Russia as a “road to nowhere” on Tuesday and suggested that his country could serve as a “bridge” between Moscow and the West.

A week ahead of a planned meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Tsipras told Russian media there was a chance for “a new impetus to the Russian-Greek relations which have very deep roots in history.” Read more “Tsipras Suggests Greece Could Serve as “Bridge” to Russia”

The Unedifying Row Between Alexis Tsipras and Mariano Rajoy

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 18, 2014
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 18, 2014 (EPP)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has unwisely accused Spain and Portugal of intentionally trying to block a solution for his country’s troublesome discussions with the Eurogroup at a Syriza party meeting. The reaction has gone beyond any reasonable limit. The two targeted nations filed formal claims to the European Commission asking it to take action against Greece. One wonders why their Foreign Ministries did not warn of the utter ridicule such a step would precipitate. Worse still, the row between European Union partners might leave longstanding scars.

The Greek government is all too conscious of having failed to deliver on its election manifesto promises. That is scarcely surprising, given the attempt to restructure outstanding debt and doing away with the rescue plan was doomed from the outset. Convincing the German Bundestag on the long-term merits of such a scenario was out of question. Even Nobel Prize laureates would be at pains to achieve such a feat. Germany stood as the real blocking hurdle all through the tough negotiations.

Greece secured an agreement on favorable political terms. After all, reviewing the current rescue package represents a formidable victory for a country bound to require extra money to cover its immediate needs. It will implement a humanitarian plan for those suffering from sheer poverty and freeze privatization processes. Other promises such as offering employment for redundant civil servants, reducing the retirement age or steeply increasing the minimum wage, will have to wait. Yet the Greek government has achieved widespread support among the population for its stubborn defence of national interests.

Was it prudent to engage in a tug-of-war with its Iberian partners? Certainly not, as such conduct only helps to underline its purported failures.

Moreover, Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, are missing the point in emphasising the Greek inability to pay back its outstanding sovereign debt. They have failed to understand that the real problem lies in the credit crunch destroying domestic businesses and jobs. By declaring bankruptcy many years before the event may materialize, they are forcing the banking system to the brink of collapse. Unless they act quickly to bolster confidence in their economy, a massive recession might ensue.

Spain and Portugal have startled commission officials by filing a claim against a fellow partner. In taking such a reckless step, they are alienating themselves from Greek support in future negotiations.

Spain, for instance, faces a number of sensitive issues about its borders that may require full solidarity from EU partners. Just think about Gibraltar and cities in North Africa. No one in Brussels understands why Spain would engage such an acrimonious war of words with a country it might resort to for help in the future. Do not forget that key issues still require unanimous support.

This is even more pertinent when we consider that neither country has the power to block agreements on the European agenda. Both may show reluctance but will ultimately bend to the wish of those that really matter in EU decisionmaking: Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Others simply fail to command enough self-assurance for vetoing essential issues. Mariano Rajoy would well advised to pay lip service to actors with a willingness to ignite a crisis whose consequences the are ill-equipped to deal with.

This story first appeared at The Corner, Spain’s only English-language financial news website, March 3, 2015.

Greece’s Tsipras Makes Enemies Out of Potential Allies

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4 (European Parliament)

Greece’s new far-left leader seem determined to make enemies out of everyone in Europe.

Having already antagonized the Austrians, the Dutch, the Finns and the Germans with his threats to cancel economic reforms and his demands for debt relief, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went after the Portuguese and Spanish on Saturday, accusing them of plotting to undermine his government.

In a speech to ruling Syriza party members, Tsipras alleged that Portugal and Spain had led an “axis of powers” against him in recent bailout talks with the rest of the eurozone.

Their plan was and is to wear down, topple or bring our government to unconditional surrender before our work begins to bear fruit and before the Greek example affects other countries.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy would appear to have a political interest in denying Tsipras a victory in his negotiations about the future of European support for Greece. Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party threatens to be unseated by the anti-establishment Podemos movement in elections later this year, a movement that has affiliated itself publicly with Tsipras’.

But Rajoy denied on Sunday he had taken a hard line with Greece because he fears the rise of the far left in his own country. “We are not responsible for the frustration generated by the radical Greek left that promised the Greeks something it couldn’t deliver on,” he said.

Portugal is also due to have elections this year but it has no anti-austerity party like Podemos or Syriza. Rather the mainstream socialists — who were all but wiped out in Greece’s election last month — look likely to take over from Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s conservatives.

Tsipras’ mistake is putting ideological affinity ahead of the Greek national interest.

Neither the Portuguese — who made the same spending cuts and liberal economic reforms Syriza campaigned against without threatening to blow up the single currency in the process — nor the Spanish are interested in seeing Tsipras succeed. But what does he hope to achieve by complaining about it?

If anything, Portugal and Spain are among the most sympathetic partners Tsipras could find.

Like Greece, they are struggling to reform a clientelist political system and liberalize an economy that is hamstrung by overbearing bureaucracies and outdated protectionist policies.

Like Greece, they seek more flexibility from the rest of the European Union to get their deficits down and more time to overhaul their welfare systems.

And like Greece, they would welcome a more expansionist monetary policy from the European Central Bank, believing this will stimulate growth.

On all these issues, the Southern Europeans face opposition from the same country Tsipras has derided time and again — Germany. He could have made allies in Lisbon and Madrid to try to overturn, or at least soften, the German “austerity” agenda. Instead, he is making enemies there barely one month into his government, leaving him with virtually no powerful friends in Europe at all.

Tsipras Doesn’t Seem to Care About Democracy Elsewhere

French president François Hollande welcomes Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Paris, February 4
French president François Hollande welcomes Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Paris, February 4 (Elysée)

In an apparent reference to other European countries’ resistance to his demands for debt relief, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras insisted on Thursday, “Greece cannot be blackmailed because democracy in Europe cannot be blackmailed.”

Tsipras’ words came after German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told his new Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis, that it was not realistic to make electoral promises that burdened other countries.

Schäuble was right. Read more “Tsipras Doesn’t Seem to Care About Democracy Elsewhere”