NEWS

After diplomatic lapses at home and abroad, Tsipras to focus on bolstering gov’t

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After a few days of diplomatic bungles on the domestic level and beyond, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to try to rally his troops today during a session of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group.

Tsipras’s chief concern is to secure his government’s cohesion as upcoming parliamentary votes on a second set of prior actions as well as the contentious issues of pension reform and higher taxes on farmers are certain to test the loyalty of coalition MPs. With a majority of just three seats in Parliament, Tsipras can ill afford any more defections.

The premier’s meeting with opposition leaders over the weekend failed to yield the consensus on key issues, chiefly pension reform, that he had hoped for. If anything, it appeared to increase tensions. But the meeting also fueled speculation about a possible cooperation between the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition and the small Union of Centrists party, whose leader Vassilis Leventis appeared to be more prepared for cooperation than the other opposition parties.

However, rumors also swirled about the possibility of the government failing to secure the necessary support to legislate controversial pension reform in the coming weeks. Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili was quick to douse talk of a “leftist parenthesis,” referring to the possibility of a short-lived SYRIZA-led government, as “wishful thinking.” “Not only is the government majority not in danger but it is quite likely to be boosted in the future,” she said, fueling speculation about a possible broadening of the coalition.

Tensions over the weekend were not limited to domestic affairs. An exchange of tweets between Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on Sunday also fueled concerns. It began when, in the middle of the summit, a series of messages appeared on Tsipras’s Twitter account, aimed at Davutoglu. The first referred to Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last week, declaring, “Fortunately our pilots are not as mercurial as yours against the Russians.”

The next postings described the situation in the Aegean as “outrageous and unbelievable” and rebuked Turkey for “spending billions of weapons… to violate our air space.” The stream of messages prompted a firm response by Davutoglu, who said the postings were “hardly in tune with the spirit of the day.”

Late on Sunday the English-language tweets were removed from Tsipras’s account and a government official told Reuters that the tweets reflected exchanges between the Greek premier and Davutoglu but had been posted in error by an aide.

In a bid to keep the peace, Tsipras met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of an EU leaders’ summit on climate change in Brussels Monday. The two leaders agreed that the results of Sunday’s summit on migration were positive and pledged to remain in “close contact,” Tsipras’s office said.