Tsipras says he is not trying to 'blackmail' EU with his demands

Wed, May 23, 2012, 01:00

GREEK FAR-LEFT leader Alexis Tsipras has said his demand to renegotiate the EU aid package for Athens is not an attempt to “blackmail” the continent.

The leader of the Syriza party – a front-runner in next month’s repeated election – told a packed Berlin press conference he sought solidarity from European neighbours for an investment programme in Greece.

“I’m not trying to blackmail anyone but to convince the German people that everything happening [in Greece] is in their own interest,” Mr Tsipras (37) said, calling for an end to a “failed” policy of austerity pushed by Berlin.

“My message is one of solidarity: we have a common problem and we need a common solution. It is an impossible situation if we try to limit the crisis to one region and try to destroy a people because we think this will prevent the crisis spreading.”

He said Greece’s existing programmes should be reconfigured to place a greater emphasis on investment and growth. A similar approach should be taken in all crisis countries, he said, from Ireland to Portugal and Spain.

The Greek visitor took issue with his portrayal in the European media. One German tabloid has implied that the Syriza leader was involved in inciting violent protest in Athens.

Mr Tsipras said both he and his party were “deeply Europe-friendly” and not seeking to destroy the euro zone. “But after 2½ years the medication being prescribed isn’t good for the patient, the solution is not to increase the dose but to stop the treatment,” he said. “If the patient isn’t helped the disease will spread.”

After visiting Paris on Monday, Mr Tsipras was in Berlin yesterday for talks with his German sister, the Left Party. It has failed to capitalise on the euro zone crisis and is instead locked in a leadership crisis and languishing below 10 per cent in polls.

Yesterday’s visitor provided a welcome respite from the daily political grind for the Left Party’s parliamentary leader, Gregor Gysi. He said it was disgraceful that, led by German austerity-first policy, Europe had become a “term of fear” in Greece. In place of current policies, he said, the euro zone should be reformed into an “integrated economic and fiscal union”.

Mr Gysi urged the opposition Social Democrats to join the Left Party in voting against the fiscal treaty in the Bundestag.

Left Party leader Klaus Ernst said Mr Tsipras had an opportunity to “challenge the fairytale that Greek people had lived beyond their means”.

“A few millionaires lived beyond their means,” he said.

“[Angela] Merkel’s medicine is poison. Crisis countries’ economies are being strangled. This path leads nowhere, this madness across Europe has to end.”