Greek Leftist leader took the first step by visiting U.S to explain his positions on the economic crisis and the dangers to Eurozone.
New York.- SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras completed a five trip to the United Stated aiming to improve his image as a mainstream politician and ease the concerns of the US administration and the IMF that if his party wins next election his moves won’t lead to a new crisis in the Eurozone.
During his public speeches at Brookings Institution, Columbia University and CUNY Graduate Center, his interviews with mainstream media and his meetings with State Department and IMF officials and members, by distancing himself from claims he would tear up Greece’s loan agreement, Alexis Tsipras seems to have helped establish his and the party’s credentials as a realistic alternative to the coalition government.
“Initially, there was concern about Mr Tsipras,” Bill Antholis, managing director of the Brookings Institution in Washington, where Tsipras spoke, told Sunday’s Kathimerini. “Anyone who leads a party called Coalition of the Radical Left provokes skepticism here. Most people who heard him speak found him to be a smooth politician, less radical than they expected.”
Prior to the United States, Tsipras has visited Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
“Is there anything to fear by the left wing in Greece? In what way are we radical?,” visiting leader of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras asked an audience at Brookings Institution, Washington, on Tuesday. And he answered: “Scaremongers will tell you that our party, if it comes to government, will scrap the loan agreement with the European Union and the IMF, will lead the country out of the euro zone, will interrupt Greece’s ties with the civilized West, and that Greece will become a new North Korea.”
Tsipras’ speech was preceded by introductory remarks by Brookings Institution managing director William Antholis, while the discussion with questions from the audience was coordinated by Brookings’ economic analyst Domenico Lombardi.
The event was attended by a number of ambassadors, including Greece’s Christos Panagopoulos and Cyprus’ Pavlos Anastasiadis, as well as by academics, analysts and journalists.
“When I was little,” Tsipras said, “I remember my elders telling me that if America grabs a cold, Greece will get ill with pneumonia. Today, I hear that some of your politicians warn the U.S. government to listen to them if you do not want to be…Greece. One thing is clear: our countries can be very different in size and structure. We also know that there are shadows and problems of the past that we want to overcome. But there are strong ties which in a globalized landscape are becoming stronger. Because our own destruction affects you as well.”
Presenting SYRIZA’s positions for the future, Tsipras stressed that his party wanted to establish a mutually beneficial dialogue with progressive thinkers in the U.S. “We have to prove that humanity has become wiser by the destruction that has been through.”
SYRIZA, he stressed, has always been and will always remain a European party. “I hope to convince you that I’m not as dangerous as some are trying to say.., Let me say this clearly: SYRIZA will keep Greece in the euro zone.
Introductory remarks to the speech were provided by Brookings Institute managing director William Antholis, while the Q&A session that followed was moderated by Brookings’ senior fellow Domenico Lombardi. The event was attended by academics, analysts, journalists and ambassadors, including Greece’s Christos Panagopoulos and Cyprus’ Pavlos Anastasiadis.
After the event, Tsipras attended a dinner at the American-Hellenic Institute. Tsipras is expected to have further meetings with officials in Washington D.C. and New York in the following days.
Alexis Tsipras’ first stop was San Francisco, on January 21, where he held meetings with representatives of the Greek-American community, followed by a visit to Washington D.C. the next day.
In the U.S. capital, Tsipras visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), before delivering a speech at the Brookings Institution.
On Wednesday, Alexis Tsipras held an extensive discussion on a series of issues concerning Greece and the wider region in a meeting at the State Department with US Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs, Erik Rubin and Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Europe and Eurasia issues, Christopher Smart.
According to SYRIZA sources, there were “points of agreement and disagreement”, with an identification of views and a “common ascertainment” that austerity is not the answer to effectively dealing with the crisis, that Greece is not a risk for Europe and that Germany is insisting on risky policies.
During the meeting, a “substantive exchange” of views took place on issues relating to the economy, the Exclusive Economic Zone and foreign policy.
According to the same sources, Tsipras outlined in clarity his positions on issues such as the spreading of violence in Greece, the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party and anti-Semitism.
The SYRIZA leader also presented his views on Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue and Greece – FYROM differences, while underlining Greece’s sovereign right on tapping the Exclusive Economic Zone to the benefit of Greek society.
Lastly, he stressed SYRIZA’s “democratic traditions”, pointing out to the American officials that Greece’s role in the region might appear to be weakened due to the economic crisis, but Greece has an “important role” to play in the framework of a multifaceted foreign policy. He added that SYRIZA supported “persistence and consistency” in foreign policy.
AT THE IMF
On Thursday Tsipras has a meeting in Washington with IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton. He had the opportunity to outline to the IMF leadership its objections at the inelegant and unfair way that the Fund involved in Greek domestic politics in its last report.
“The Greek programme is not at risk by democracy. Democracy can provide a way out,” Tsipras said.
After the end of the meeting between Tsipras and the IMF officials, an IMF representative said “Mr. David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF and Mr. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the political party in Greece SYRIZA, met today at the IMF headquarters in Washington.“They had a constructive and sincere discussion on the economic challenges that Greece is facing,” the official said.
Tax evasion coupled with tax exemptions for the rich “created fewer revenues and an increase in the debt Alexis Tsipras told a Columbia University audience on Thursday. At the event, “An evening with SYRIZA on Greece and the eurozone,” Tsipras said that Greece was seen by Europe as “the experimental lab rat on which to try barbaric neoliberal alternatives, which not only led the country into the trap of recession, but before an unprecedented humanistic crisis.”
The party recognizes that the Greek economy has its own structural and deep-rooted problems, he said, “but these did not creat the crisis. The crisis is not Greek.”
He charged that healthy companies are shutting down and professional leaving the country because the credit system has stopped working and the state undermines any opportunity of growth.
“Greece has become a case study for anyone who wishes to study how the policy of recession destroys society, how austerity programmes cannot resolve the problem of debt, and how a government can protect large-scale tax evaders who own bank accounts abroad,” he charged.
Assessing the outcome of his visit to the United States, Tsipras said on Friaday his party and its political platform were “de-demonised”, as the officials with whom he met “realised that our political plan has a sound political base.” He stressed that “despite differences, there were some points of understanding and a framework of discussion was set by agreeing on the central point that the Greek austerity programme is not viable, that it is ineffective.”
Speaking during a press conference at New York’s Greek Press Office, Tsipras expounded on a series of issues relating to domestic and foreign policy.
He spoke of gaining “very useful experience” as a result of his contacts with political and economic officials in the U.S., and stressed his visit was aimed at “raising Greece’s problem on an international level.”
Referring to a meeting he had earlier on Friday with editorial staff of the New York Times, Tsipras spoke of a “useful and constructive” meeting and a “sincere interest” about the situation in Greece.
He concludes his visit on Friday evening, when he is scheduled to meet academics and union and other organizations officials, in addition to delivering a speech at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.
Commenting on the latest developments in Greece with regard to the end on Friday of a lengthy Athens Metro industrial action by the enforcement of a government order, he said that “the government’s option to push ahead with a civil mobilization order signals its option to proceed with authoritarianism on a policy of conflicts with social groups having just demands.”
Tsipras pointed out that “the last thing the country needs is the escalation of tension and social conflict.”
He concluded his visit on Friday evening, having meeting with academics, union leaders and an Occupy Wall Street Delegation, in addition to delivering a speech at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.