SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who is the European Left’s candidate for European Commission president, crossed swords in Brussels on Thursday with his rivals for the post in a televised debate.
Taking part in his first and only debate with center-right Jean-Claude Juncker, socialist Martin Schulz, liberal Guy Verhofstadt and green co-candidate Ska Keller, Tsipras used the platform to share his anti-austerity message with European voters.
“We need to end austerity and regain democracy,” said the Greek politician. “We need to get rid of the debt problem by calling for a European debt conference like the one for Germany in 1953.”
Tsipras argued that austerity policies in the European Union were the main cause for the rise of nationalist and far-right parties.
“There are causes and responsibilities for euroskepticism and this is austerity and it is the fault of those who started it,” he said, pointing toward Schulz, Juncker and Verhofstadt.
During the discussion, Tsipras was involved in a one-on-one debate with Verhofstadt over the role of banks in creating the crisis. The liberal politician claimed that the public sector and only state-run banks in Greece contributed to the country’s problems. He said these lenders also funded New Democracy, PASOK and SYRIZA.
Tsipras accepted that state-run banks had played a role. “There was a clientelist state in Greece that was supported by the EPP and the PES,” he said referring to the conservative and socialist groupings in the European Parliament. But Tsipras rejected the idea that private banks were not part of the problem, citing the case of Ireland.