NEWS

In bid to shift focus from toxic Prespes debate, Tsipras pledges social measures

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In a bid to shift the climate following the politically toxic debate on the Prespes name deal, which was approved in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Monday announced an increase to the minimum wage, declaring that it heralded the gradual rolling back of austerity that his leftist-led government has long promised.

During a cabinet meeting, Tsipras announced an 11 percent increase, to come into effect from February 1, boosting the minimum wage from 586 euros to 650 euros.

A so-called “subminimum wage” of 511 euros paid to young employees would be abolished, he added.

Describing the move as “of historic significance,” Tsipras said it would directly benefit 600,000 people and indirectly another 280,000. He said the increase was one in a series of initiatives his government is planning following the country’s formal exit from its international bailouts last summer.

“We now have the ability to implement certain policies which give life to our strategic aims,” he said.

Conservative New Democracy said the timing of the announcement betrayed a “desperate effort to make Greeks forget the national mistake of the Prespes agreement” and in any case had come too late as the government had “demolished the economy with overtaxation and irresponsible policies.” 

Tsipras insisted that elections would be held in October, at the end of his government’s four-year term, despite heightened speculation of snap polls after his junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos resigned earlier this month.

The behavior of Tsipras’s estranged coalition partner remains a concern. Kammenos Monday claimed that Tsipras had offered to include him and other MPs of his Independent Greeks (ANEL) party on leftist SYRIZA’s ticket in the next elections if he did not quit the government over the Prespes deal. He also spoke of an “organized plan” to destroy ANEL.

Although Tsipras is keen to shift attention away from the contentious Prespes deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, there are certain technical steps that must be completed before the name change comes into effect, notably the approval of a so-called accession protocol that will allow the neighboring Balkan country to join NATO under the new name of North Macedonia.