Tsipras at WEF in Davos: Europe’s problems need ‘more Europe

21 January 2016
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Solving Europe’s problems required “more Europe,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, while participating in a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel in Davos, Switzerland.

“We are doing what we can in order to progress quickly and smoothly with the implementation of the agreement,” Tsipras said, and expressed hope that the disagreements and different views that occasionally arose between the three institutions representing the country’s creditors would not be the cause of further delays.

“This is not the time for various ‘exits’, whether these concern ‘Grexit’ or ‘Brexit’, or for divisions, or walls, or differentiations,” the Greek premier continued. “It is a time for more Europe: Common rules, deepening democracy, strengthening solidarity, an increased European budget in order to restrict inequalities, banking union with a European system for guaranteeing deposits,” he added.

According to Tsipras, it was time for Europe to return to its founding principles, which were those of democracy, solidarity and social cohesion.

Addressing issues raised by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said the International Monetary Fund’s presence in the Greek programme was essential and compared asking German lawmakers to sanction its removal to “going into a room full of dynamite with a lit candle”, Tsipras made the following comment:

“I too am no supporter of the view that one should attempt to light a candle in a room full of dynamite. Neither, however, do I have the view that on this account one must constantly be in the dark. The best solution is to remove the dynamite from the room and then light the candle.”

Tsipras pointed out that not everyone in Europe had the same opinion about the IMF’s role and significance in European affairs. “This is not because we looked down on the IMF but because some of us believed that Europe can handle all these things perfectly well on its own,” he said.

In spite of this, he added, things had moved on, the various opinions had been voiced and in the last negotiations on Greece, some countries asked for the fund’s participation in the programme. Greece had agreed, so that there would be an agreement, and was now doing its utmost to ensure that this agreement was implemented quickly and smoothly, he said.

In a comment regarding competitiveness, Tsipras also highlighted the issue of productivity.

“In addition to wanting to become more competitive, which means we must outdo our neighbour in competitiveness, we must also talk about the the issue of productivity. To become more productive, in other words more efficient, means that we improve and through our improvement we can benefit our neighbour,” he said.

He pointed out that labour cost was not the only issue affecting productivity and competitiveness and that there were a series of criteria that had to be addressed in order to make an economy more productive and competitive. The prime minister said that he was very glad that there was now a common agreement between the productive classes in Greece.

“The government agreed with the employer associations to share the burden with society and they agreed to a very small increase in contributions so that we do not have the 13th successive cut in current pensions and go to a viable pension system,” he said.

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