NEWS

Tsipras insists EU needs Greece

Leftist says won?t approach creditors to pick a fight but has plan B in case talks fail

The leader of the leftist Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, on Tuesday repeated his conviction that European leaders cannot afford to risk a Greek eurozone exit, adding however that his party had an ?emergency plan? to deal with the fallout if negotiations with international creditors on the country?s debt deal collapse.

?We?ve examined every eventuality,? Tsipras told a press conference, adding that he was positive about the outcome of the negotiations. ?We?re not going into battle to lose,? he said. He insisted his party will not approach Greece?s foreign creditors ?to pick a fight, but to convince them.»

His optimism appeared to be based on the belief that EU leaders would not take the risk of fanning contagion that could spread across the bloc. ?The fire will be uncontrollable and will not be limited to Greece and the southern European countries, it will break up the eurozone and this is in no-one?s interests,? he added.

Referring to Spain?s 100-billion-euro bailout for its banks, Tsipras said Madrid had secured the aid without tough terms. ?Spain received funding without a debt deal,? he said. But he also criticized the Spanish government for implementing a severe austerity policy.

Questioned by reporters about his insistence on rejecting Greece?s debt deal with foreign creditors, Tsipras said that he did not consider changes to Greek law ?unilateral action,? rebuffing a charge levelled at him by rival parties.

He said he was confident Syriza would win elections on June 17 and ?launch a new political era,? noting that public opposition to austerity was still strong. ?What we are witnessing is an emancipation of the people, a peaceful revolution,? he said.

Alongside the restoration of the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and pensions, a priority of the leftists would be to ?end the rotten, corrupt and ineffective political system which threatens Greece?s position in the eurozone and social cohesion,? Tsipras said. He also pledged to cut in half the salaries given to the prime minister and ministers, to restrict their privileges, and repeated that he would not fire civil servants and would tax the wealthy rather than low-income Greeks.

The leftist added that political leaders did not have the luxury of several days to form a coalition after the June 17 polls. ?On June 18, not on June 19, not on June 20, not on June 21, Greece must have a government. It will either be a leftist government with Syriza as its core or it will be a pro-memorandum government with New Democracy as its core,? he said.

Syriza?s central committee, which has been striving to field attempts by opposition politicians to discredit the leftist party, on Tuesday turned its barbs against one of its own candidates who decided to throw in the towel earlier this week in protest at Syriza?s outright rejection of Greece?s debt deal with international creditors. In a letter to the party, former Syriza candidate for Corinth Nikos Hanias claimed that ?even one hour of Syriza in government would be catastrophic for Greece and the future of our children.? The party?s central committee described Hanias? change of stance as ?inexplicable and immoral? but the defector defended his right to question the party?s political stances.

Syriza?s policies, and the general political situation in Greece, were also discussed on Tuesday in Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament. The head of the European Parliament?s group of Socialists and Democrats Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian, remarked that the rejection of the debt deal ?would be catastrophic for Greece.?

Meanwhile the outspoken German MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit said that Europeans ?cannot consign Greece to the garbage can of history.? ?Irrespective of the outcome of the elections, we must continue negotiations with the new Greek government because a departure of Greece from the euro would carry a great cost,? he said.

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