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In Strasbourg, Tsipras defends position on labor reform

TAGS: Politics, Economy, EU

In a speech at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras underlined the need to bolster the rights of workers in Greece’s precarious labor market ahead of negotiations with the country’s creditors on the subject that promise to be tough.

“Greece needs an institutional overhaul of the already flexible labor market, not its total demolition,” Tsipras said in an apparent bid to secure European backing for his government’s position on labor reforms ahead of what are expected to be tough talks with the International Monetary Fund.

Referring to a broader crisis in the European Union, Tsipras spoke of a “failure of the neoliberal model,” referring to the EU’s 22 million unemployed, and noting that this failure had “fed the beast of nationalism and fascism.”

Tsipras spoke too about his government’s efforts to manage refugee flows and to improve the facilities for their temporary accommodation in Greece. He also heralded a proposal that Athens plans to make to the European Commission, according to which all migrants aged under 10 who arrived in Greece before March 19 will have priority status in a European relocation program for migrants. March 19 is when the EU signed a deal with Turkey to return Europe-bound migrants arriving in Greece.

Tsipras said his government had a series of initiatives planned to improve the rights of minority groups in Greece, heralding the creation of a mosque and a Muslim cemetery in Athens.

On Thursday and Friday, Tsipras is to meet with party leaders back in Athens, in a bid to gauge their outlook as regards possible changes to Greece’s electoral law. The government has yet to unveil its proposal, which is expected to keep the 3 percent threshold for a party to enter Parliament and bring the current system of enhanced proportional representation closer to one of simple proportional representation by reducing the 50-seat bonus that goes to the first party under the current system.

Speaking at a conference organized by The Economist on Wednesday, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would not agree to the government’s proposal for electoral reform, reiterating his conviction that the initiative is a public relations exercise.

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