In a speech before the European Parliament Wednesday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed his conviction that conservative New Democracy, which leads the coalition with PASOK, would prevail in European elections in May, insisting that it was the “guarantor of political stability” in Greece and dismissing the leftist opposition SYRIZA as extremist and populist.
“We who champion the cause of Europe will win the European elections,” Samaras told European lawmakers at a session during which he set out Greece’s priorities during the next six months, during which the country is to hold the European Union’s rotating presidency. Topping the agenda are measures to curb unemployment, to promote banking union and to bolster immigration policy, he said.
Samaras took the opportunity to underline his government’s success in achieving fiscal adjustment targets set by the country’s so-called troika of foreign lenders, referring once again to predictions for a primary surplus, but he acknowledged that the return to economic health had been hampered by missteps on the part of both Greece and the troika. He expressed optimism, however, and repeated his pledge to offer 70 percent of the primary surplus to pensioners and those on low incomes.
“The hard part is over. We are close to recovery,” Samaras said, adding that he had faith in Greek citizens and their desire to remain “part of Europe.”
The Greek premier insisted that SYRIZA, which opposes the terms of Greece’s bailout and is marginally ahead of ND in opinion polls, was “not an alternative solution.” “It is not offering a solution but swinging between lightly veiled extremism and populism,” Samaras said.
Samaras noted that he, when in opposition, had backed several bills proposed by former socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, while SYRIZA “restricts itself to permanent criticism.”