Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras turned down an invitation by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to travel to Berlin on Sunday for a meeting of European leaders ahead of next Friday’s EU summit in Bratislava, citing his scheduled participation at the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Although Tsipras’s participation at TIF has been long planned, his refusal to travel to Berlin raised questions in view of the Greek government’s expressed intentions to improve relations with Merkel.
In any case, Tsipras is determined to improve his government’s profile in the coming days and weeks, starting with Friday’s Euro-Mediterranean summit, which is to be attended by French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, among others. Tsipras aims to gain his fellow leaders’ support for an anti-austerity front, challenging Berlin’s rhetoric in favor of increased belt-tightening.
Ahead of Friday’s summit, Tsipras is to host a dinner for Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Athens on Thursday evening. Talks will focus on the latest momentum in United Nations-mediated negotiations for a Cyprus peace deal. Anastasiades, who has met twice with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in the past two days, said Wednesday that the two leaders will issue a joint statement following their final scheduled meeting on September 14. The Cypriot president made it clear that an agreement is not yet in the cards as convergence must be reached in all areas for a pact to be conclusive.
Looking toward TIF, Tsipras met Wednesday with senior representatives of Greece’s business community, notably the president of the Professional Chamber of Athens, Yiannis Hatzitheodosiou, and the president of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Theodoros Fessas. In an interview with Praktorieo, the Athens-Macedonia News Agency’s magazine, Tsipras gave an indication of what his speech will touch on in Thessaloniki.
“Our aim is for the country to find its stride again,” he said, adding that, “the time has come to look upward and toward the future, to visualize our country in the following years and decades, a country freed of supervision, outside the cycle of recession and unemployment.” Tsipras also invited opposition parties to join the government in “a creative dialogue about the future of the country and its citizens.”
The main conservative opposition, New Democracy, appeared unwilling to respond to the overture Wednesday, with spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos accusing Tsipras of reneging on promises to citizens and “lying before he even starts speaking.”