Speakers at New Democracy’s 12th conference over the weekend hit out against populism and hailed the party as the remedy for restoring Greece’s tarnished image in Europe.
In a speech on Saturday, the leader of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) in European Parliament, Manfred Weber, expressed confidence in ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying an electoral win by the conservatives next year will bring multiple benefits. “A New Democracy government will not only sideline populists, it will also restore the credibility of this wonderful country in Europe,” said Weber, who is the favorite to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.
“A New Democracy victory will also send a clear message to Europe that the rise of populism is not irreversible,” he told delegates at the Metropolitan Expo venue near Athens International Airport in eastern Attica. “The forces of the extremes are on the rise. I am absolutely certain that New Democracy will not just win the next election but above all, that Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be an excellent prime minister.”
European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos struck a similar tone, saying that populists “are taking us back to the darkest times of European history.” The countries that survived similar crises to Greece’s were those whose leaderships did not slide into populism, he said.
Former conservative premier Antonis Samaras lambasted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over Greece’s name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “He gave up everything that previous Greek prime ministers refused to,” he said. “He is dangerous for many reasons but mainly because he has no red lines; he does everything they ask him to do.”
Mitsotakis, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the conference, said he would not follow Tsipras’s example with divisive dialogue, adding that he believed elections would happen in May.