Monday

25th Sep 2017

Samaras and Barroso show solidarity on 'anti-EU' parties

Greek PM Antonis Samaras and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso have showed solidarity against what Samaras calls his "anti-EU" political enemies.

Speaking at a launch ceremony for the Greek EU presidency on Wednesday (8 January), Samaras dubbed the left-wing Syriza opposition party as "anti-EU, anti-Nato, and anti-Western."

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  • The Syriza party is 'anti-EU and anti-Western' Samaras said (Photo: John D. Carnessiotis, Athens, Greece)

He promised there will be no snap national elections in Greece before the next sheduled vote, in 2016, despite the waning popularity of his ruling coalition.

Barroso, at the same event, said he is "sure that the pro-European forces will win the European elections" in May this year.

He also dismissed as "prejudice" suggestions that Samaras' government is not up to handling the EU presidency because of the economic mess in Greece.

He was echoed by deputy PM Evangelos Venizelos, who told reporters that "we are, from an institutional point of view, up to par."

For his part, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras boycotted the EU presidency ceremony in protest at the government's priorities for its six months at the EU helm.

Greece is hoping to exit its €240 billion bailout programme this year.

But Tsipras says the terms of the loan package are failing ordinary Greeks and wants to remodel the Greek economy around a public works programme.

Syriza is also nosing ahead of New Democracy in opinion polls.

It scored 22 percent in one recent survey by pollsters Pulse, compared to Samaras' centre-right New Democracy party on 20 percent and its junior coalition partner, the centre-left Pasok party, on 5 percent.

The voters' mood has led to speculation the coalition could unravel.

Meanwhile, another recent poll said that Barroso, and EU officials more broadly, have an approval rating of just 19 percent in Greece - the lowest in any EU country.

Samaras on Wednesday conceded that the patience of Greek people has been tested by the economic crisis.

"I understand that people are angry about their suffering from the extreme austerity they have had to go through," he said.

Turning to the European Parliament election in May, he added that Greek voters "will need to decide if they want Europe or not."

Greece is also among several EU countries which are likely to see a surge in support for far-right parties in May.

Samaras said the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has "nothing to do with democracy."

The group has been linked to organised violence against migrants.

One of its members, a former commando, famously attacked an MP from a rival left-wing party on live TV in 2012, slapping her in the face three times.

But it is polling in third place, on 11 percent, raising the prospect of Golden Dawn MEPs in the corridors of the next EU parliament in Brussels.

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Faced with the growing tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments, the member states and EU institutions would prefer not to get involved.

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Armed Spanish police have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum, prompting appeals for EU help.

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