While David Cameron received a chilly reception Tuesday at the first European Union summit in Brussels since Britain voted to leave the bloc on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated that the result of the British referendum should serve as a springboard to put Europe on a different course, away from the dogma of austerity that the bloc employed to tackle the financial crisis.
“We must take initiatives to replace austerity with growth, division with convergence, unemployment with quality jobs, and the endless meetings behind close doors with transparency and democracy,” he told reporters upon his arrival at the summit.
“We are not the guests of the conservatives in Europe, he said at a meeting of Euro-socialists on the sidelines of the summit, adding that it was imperative to forge a progressive front to re-establish a more humane and socially minded EU.
Brexit, he said, should act as a wake-up call for the bloc, which is at a “very difficult crossroads.”
“We have arrived at a predictable crisis due a democratic deficit, the lack of social cohesion and solidarity,” he said, adding that Europe needs “to take daring decisions to make itself more attractive to its citizens.”
However, his vision of a left-leaning Europe received a blow at the weekend, when the leftist Podemos party failed to make the strong showing it had anticipated in the Spanish elections and “clearly did not meet the government’s expectations.”
Seemingly unfazed, Tsipras appears to believe his government can play a leading role in the battle for more democracy and in the bid to end the perceived inequality among member-states and the division between North and South.
He referred to an imbalance of power within the EU and drew parallels between the “very kind” treatment the UK received from Brussels and European leaders, and the “much worse response to Greece” when his leftist-led coalition held its own referendum last summer on whether Greeks wanted more austerity or not.
That, he said, was just another instance of the double standards at play within the EU that must come to an end.