NEWS

Greek PM urges Europe to return to more humane roots

A man watches share price data displayed on an electronic board at the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), which closed 13.42 percent down after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

TAGS: Politics, EU

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday said that the result of Thursday’s British referendum on continued European Union membership came as no surprise given the “extreme policies of austerity that have deepened inequalities between the countries of the North and South and within EU states themselves.” Tsipras also called for a full-scale “counterattack by progressive-minded forces in Europe to halt the onslaught of the far right and nationalism.”

There is deep political and social division in Europe, the prime minister said, which has only served to boost Euroskepticism within the 28-member bloc.

However, Athens believes it can play an active role in the battle it sees unfolding between the bloc’s neo-liberal forces and those that believe the EU should return to its democratic and socially sensitive roots, as the Brexit vote was a result of Europe’s failure to effectively deal with the financial crisis and the recent migrant crisis.

To that end, and in anticipation of the Spanish election results, Greek government officials have already contacted the offices of French President Francois Holland, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Gianni Pittella, the leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

However, with regard to the ramifications Brexit would have on Greece and its economy, the government is adopting a wait-and-see approach in anticipation of Tuesday’s “decisive” EU summit before it draws any concrete conclusions.

Tsipras chaired two meetings with aides and policymakers on Friday to discuss the impact on the implementation of Greece’s bailout program within the new emerging political landscape in Europe.

What government officials did appear fairly sure of is that the uncertainty Brexit will usher in for the banking sector across Europe will effectively rule out any possibility of lifting the capital bank controls any time soon.

They also believe that pressures to implement tough labor reforms will only increase while Athens waits to see whether the International international Monetary Fund will take part in the Greek bailout, given the new circumstances.

For his part, main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also castigated traditional European parties for not tuning in to the needs of citizens, and said that it is now incumbent on the EU to see what went wrong and to move forward, placing the “welfare of its citizens” at the top of the agenda.

Europe, he said, must hammer out a new vision that will “inspire nations across Europe to believe in the usefulness of the EU.” Far-right nationalist and xenophobic parties on the continent, including Golden Dawn in Greece, he said, have been boosted by the result of the British referendum. However, opposition officials have cast doubt on whether Greece can cope under its current government.

“A great adventure has just begun and unfortunately Greece is very weak,” New Democracy spokesman Giorgos Koumountsakos said.

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