18th Apr 2019

MEPs berate Greek PM in lively debate

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras debated his country's economic woes with MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday took a verbal beating from the main political groups in the European Parliament for turning up both at a euro summit the previous evening and then in plenary with no concrete proposals on where to go next with his debt-ridden country.

The left-wing PM, now in his sixth month of office, stepped into a packed Strasbourg plenary - amid both applause and boos – as MEPs waited to hear an update on what has turned out to be the EU’s biggest crisis since it was founded.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But Tsipras’ 15 minute speech, where he described Greece as an “austerity laboratory”, was met with sharp criticism from the centre-right and finger-wagging from the liberals, the centre-left, and Green group leaders.

Tsipras told the assembly that five-and-half years of imposed austerity had resulted in a GDP-to-debt ratio of around 180 percent and a wrecked economy.

“It is a major injustice, bailout programmes have not made things better, they have made things worse,” he said.

Buoyed by a popular vote in Greece on Sunday, Tsipras said the solution to the country’s financial woes require “credible reforms.”

He said the Greek people had spoken and given him a mandate to find a “socially just and economic sustainable solution.”

He then blamed previous governments and austerity programmes for devastating the country and strengthening the vested interests of the political establishment, oligarchs, and banks.

Tsipras spoke after Greece was Tuesday given an end-of-the week ultimatum to propose new reforms to avoid a eurozone exit.

European President Donald Tusk warned a solution would have to be found or “we will wake up in four days with a different Europe”.

European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said it had been a mistake to leave the negotiation table.

“We must go back to the negotiating table, that is where we belong,” said Juncker.

Tsipras' speech was short on specifics, irking MEPs who had expected more details.

German Green MEP Rebecca Harms said the PM should have outlined plans on weeding out corruption, cronyism, and policies on fair tax and pension systems.

“I thought that Tsipras would come along here and say this is how I’m going to go about it with my people. We want to have your views on a fair tax system, I thought you were going to present your views on a fair pension system,” she said.

She told him not to look for answers in Russia.

“Democracy and (Russian President) Putin, I’m sorry, do not much add up. I wish you success and I wish success for Europe as well,” she said.

German EPP leader Manfred Weber gave one of the angriest speeches.

“Look around this chamber, from the far left to the far right, you have a lot of applause. Mr Tsipras, the extremists of Europe are applauding you.”

He said Tsipras was destroying confidence in Europe by not presenting a reform programme.

“Up until now there are no specific proposals from Greece,” he said.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt, for his part, accused Tsipras of engaging in the same kind of clientelism that has plagued the country for decades.

“A few weeks ago, thirteen directors in the ministry of education had to be nominated and by accident, twelve were from the Syrizia party,” he said.

Verhofstadt said Tsipras has to stop talking about reforms and start proposing plans and roadmaps with deadlines.

“I am angry because we are in fact sleep walking towards a Grexit,” he added.

Final deadline, as EU prepares for Grexit

Greek government given “final deadline” until end of the week to present reform proposals, with Juncker saying a detailed Grexit scenario is already prepared.


Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us