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17th Nov 2018

Tspiras hopes 'Club Med' to soften EU austerity

  • Tsipras (c) is hosting France's Hollande (r) to discuss alternatives to austerity policies avocated by Germany's Merkel (l) (Photo: Consillium)

Leaders of France, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus are gathering in Athens on Friday (9 September) for an “EU-Med” mini-summit, which Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras hopes will promote a left-wing answer to Europe’s multiple crises at next week’s Bratislava summit.

Tsipras said he hoped the meeting would help give weight to Europe's southern states, which were worst hit by Europe's many problems.

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”We [the Mediterranean countries] are in the eye of the storm of the refugee crisis, the security crisis and terrorism, and the economic crisis. Today we have a north which accumulates surpluses and a south that suffers heavy deficits. There is no European convergence when such disparities exist,” Tspiras told Le Monde in an interview published on Thursday.

The Bratislava meeting is supposed to be a show of unity after the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

But Tspiras hopes that the southern gathering will help to prevent that discussions on the EU's future are monopolised by the Visegrad group of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia, who have said their proposal will be to roll back some of the EU’s powers, notably in the field of migration.

The Greek PM also wants to form a counterweight to Germany, and its belt-tightening agenda for the EU.

He said that the EU’s stability and growth pact was ”not the Gospel”, did not work in practice, and should be reviewed so that EU countries can create growth.

Senior German lawmakers already warned against a stronger role for what they call the ”Club Med” in the EU.

"I am deeply concerned that the southern EU countries will jointly form a strong coalition of reform-unwilling redistributors, threatening the financial stability in Europe,” German conservative MEP Markus Ferber told Die Welt.

The MEP said a strong and stable union was more essential than ever following the Brexit vote.

"After Britain's departure, the 'Club Med' will have a blocking minority that can prevent all kinds of laws in Brussels that it does not like," Ferber said.

Germany's EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger was also worried about the Athens meeting.

"It would not be good if the divide deepened between EU member countries with big budget problems ... and those with minimal fiscal issues," he told the Passauer Neue Presse.

Part of Tsipras’ anti-austerity push will be to gather support for his country’s debt relief demands.

Also on Friday, eurozone ministers will examine Greece’s economic situation. Creditors, including the International Monetary Fund, say Greece will never manage to pay back its €328 billion, but Berlin has refused to open debt relief discussions before the German elections in 2017.

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