ATHENS – Amid growing outcries that he will isolate Greece economically and force it out of the Eurozone, back to the ancient drachma and certain ruin, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras has told leaders of the world’s G20 – finance ministers from the world’s top economies – that he can renegotiate terms of Greece’s bailout with international lenders without jeopardizing its standing.
With the critical June 17 elections looming, he told the ambassadors that, “We want to try and reach a solution with our partners, but such a solution must definitely put a stop to an ongoing catastrophic situation.” Greece is surviving on $152 billion in rescue loans from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), which is withholding a second bailout of $173 billion until after the elections. Critics, including New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, have warned that Tsipras will get Greece kicked out of the Eurozone, although they, too, want to change some of the bailout terms they had previously backed.
Tsipras insisted that SYRIZA’s program “is the only way for Greece to exit the crisis and become an equal and worthy member state of the European Union and the Eurozone.” He pointed out his party’s strong second-place finish in the stalemated May 6th elections and that it is pitched in a dead heat with New Democracy for the June 17th elections. He promised he would privatize banks and would try to increase tax revenues by 1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the aim of bringing Greece closer to the EU average in four years in addition to cracking down on tax evasion and increasing levies on the wealthy.
On foreign policy, Tsipras said that his party — if called on to lead a government — would pursue a “multifaceted and pacificist” policy but would strongly defend the country’s rights within the EU and strive to contribute to regional alliances in the Balkans and Mediterranean. He added that SYRIZA was in favor of the Middle East becoming a denuclearized zone.
On the issue of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Tsipras said it was Greece’s inalienable right to create one in order to exploit undersea mineral reserves, adding that he would seek to forge pacts with neighboring countries. Last week, Tsipras had turned down a meeting with the ambassadors of EU member states. SYRIZA sources said that as Samaras had already met with them, Tsipras did not want to be seen as copying the conservative leader. The SYRIZA leader met individually with some of the EU ambassadors last week.