NEWS

In Berlin, Tsipras says austerity threatens the euro

Greece would remain in the eurozone if the radical left were to win upcoming elections, Greek anti-austerity leftist leader Alexis Tsipras said in Berlin on Tuesday.

?A vote for the left does not mean that we would leave the euro. Quite the opposite, we would keep the euro,? said the leader of the Syriza party, which is tipped to win another round of elections expected on June 17.

?I do not think that a rejection of the austerity programme means that the country would have to leave the eurozone,? Tsipras said, in comments translated into German.

?We will try to find solutions at a European level and I am convinced we will be able to succeed,? he said.

With all eyes on the Greek election, the second in just six weeks, Tsipras?s Syriza party is tipped to do better than its second place finish in May 6 polls which turned on implementation of a massive EU-IMF bailout.

Greek voters this month roundly rejected the austerity measures in the accord which was supported by the traditional mainstays of Greek politics — the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok parties — but no government could be formed following the poll.

The June 17 elections are nevertheless fast becoming seen as a referendum on Greek acceptance of the bailout deal and continuing in the eurozone.

Tsipras called on France and Germany to ?stop their policy of austerity out of solidarity with the Greek people.? ?Europe has the duty to avoid a new tragedy,? he said, after referring to World War II.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande stressed at their first news conference last week that their joint aim was to keep Greece in the euro.

Nevertheless, they both insisted that Greece must deliver on the reforms promised in exchange for some 237 billion euros ($303 billion) of aid.

Asked about his hopes for Wednesday?s EU summit, during which Greece?s woes will feature high on the agenda, he said: ?We are of the opinion that people can realise their mistakes and change things.? ?We expect a lot of changes in the Franco-German axis? after Hollande replaced former president Nicolas Sarkozy, he added.

Tsipras was meeting fellow leftist leaders in Germany on the second leg of a European tour that also took in Paris on Monday.

Asked if he had tried to obtain a meeting with Merkel in Berlin, Tsipras said he had sought contact with German political parties across the board, but that Merkel?s conservative Christian Democrats had declined.

In France, he took Merkel to task for reportedly suggesting that the Greeks hold a referendum on their membership of the euro — something Berlin has strenuously and repeatedly denied.

He concluded with an appeal to Germans and all other Europeans to ?come and spend their holidays in Greece to show their solidarity? with the crippled Greek people. [AFP]