The European Left is the main political force of change in Europe and only alternative to neoliberalism, says Greek left-wing leader and expected candidate for the European Commission top job, Alexis Tsipras, in an interview with EURACTIV Greece.
The European Left can oppose "neoliberalism" and help find a solution to the effects of austerity policy, said Tsipras, the leader of the leftist Greek party, Syriza.
The European Left, an alliance of left-leaning parties, is expected to name Tsipras as its candidate for the presidency of the Commission during its congress on 13-15 December.
In an extensive interview with EURACTIV Greece, Tsipras said that the European Left and upcoming Greek EU presidency needed to help break the division between the EU's north and south.
“We want to make clear beyond the borders of Greece that the Left has the political vision and courage to build a wider social consensus on the programmatic goal to refound Europe on a democratic, social and ecological basis,” Tsipras said.
Some leftist parties, such as Syriza, have gained popularity through their anti-austerity messages during the recession.
Greek presidency and the 'directorate of the north'
Referring to Greece's EU presidency, which begins on 1 January 2014, the Greek leader of the main opposition attacked the coalition government of the centre-right New Democracy and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), claiming that the “directorate of the lenders of the north” will take all the decisions.
"The directorate of the lenders of the north will be deciding and the Samaras-Venizelos government will be presiding by carrying their decisions out,” he said.
"The Samaras government downgrades an institutional achievement of the relatively smaller EU member states, namely, the rotating EU presidency, to a presidency of 'old-fashioned party-politics parochialism', focused on photo opportunities and diplomatic amenities for domestic pre-electoral consumption," he continued.
United by austerity
The Syriza leader said that his candidacy for the role of Commission president was a moral, political and ideological reaction to the effects of austerity policy.
“It symbolises recognition of the unjust sacrifices of the Greek people and the solidarity to all the peoples in Europe’s south who are suffering the catastrophic social consequences of the memoranda of austerity and recession," he said.
Tsipras said that the crisis had brought people from all aspects of society together: “we juxtapose the solidarity of the young, the working people, the pensioners and the unemployed”.
A safeguard against the dark forces
To Tsipras, the Left also presents a counter-balance to the transformation of Europe into a "dark continent" and the rise of the extreme right and fascism due to the effects of austerity measures.
The Syriza leader also said that his party rejected the "Europe-fortress" mentality of European immigration policies, which had turned the continent into a hotbed of xenophobia, racism and fascism. He expressed dismay at the EU's “Dublin II” regulation, which defines which member state is responsible for a particular asylum request.
The regulation has received criticism for placing too much of the burden for asylum requests on the southern member states.
“We are working for a Europe impregnable fortress to fascism. We are working for the necessary double European solidarity: external, with the viable support and developmental assistance to the countries of emigration and, internal, with the just allocation of immigrants across the EU,” he said.
Dimitris Kourkoulas, Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking to the Greek newspaper To Vima, commented on the statements of Syriza opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, regarding the upcoming Greek presidency of the EU and said that they constitute “an insult”:
“It is unclear what he is trying to achieve and what his purpose is”, Kourkoulas said.
Syriza, or Coalition of the Radical Left, became the second largest party in Greece and the main opposition force after elections in June 2012.
The centre-right New Democracy (ND) led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras won 29.66% of the votes, followed by Syriza with 26.89%. PASOK came third with only 12.28%.
Syriza has shaken up the Greek political landscape, which has been traditionally dominated by ND and PASOK.
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