‘Europe between a rock and a hard place,’ Greek PM tells Paris press

13 March 2016
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“Europe is stuck between a rock and a hard place, crushed between austerity and sealed borders,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a press conference in Paris on Friday night for an event titled “Europe must change,” organized by Pierre Laurent, secretary general of the French Communist Party and president of the European Left.

“It is keeping its borders closed to those who are persecuted and its door open to extreme austerity. We need to reaffirm our policy guidelines and agree that Europe is at a political impasse,” Tsipras, who was also invited to Paris by French President Francois Hollande to attend a meeting of left-wing politicians, said.

The Greek PM will be the keynote speaker on Saturday at a meeting on Europe organized by the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS).

“Europe, in a state of terror, is today discovering that the problem has reached its backyard,” said Tsipras, adding that the bloc is facing the consequences of its actions and citing member-states’ involvement in the wars of Iraq, Libya and Syria.

“The countries of Eastern Europe are having a nervous breakdown not because they cannot absorb one or two million refugees but because austerity has been feeding the monster of fascism in Europe’s underbelly,” he said, making reference to May 5 elections in Slovakia which saw the far-right Kotleba party enter parliament.

The leftist prime minister, who is juggling to manage the worst migration crisis since World War II and tough negotiations with international creditors to wrap up a review of the country’s bailout process, was critical of European policy on both fronts.

“The logic of national sovereignty cannot prevail over joint European rules when it comes to the refugee problem,” said Tsipras. “We can’t have some saying that the EU’s 28 cannot dictate what a member-state will do with its borders because it is a matter of national sovereignty but accept throwing national sovereignty out the window when it comes to the economy.”

“Although we are disappointed by the course the [European Union] has taken, we are determined to fight within its framework and not outside of it,” Tsipras said. “Nevertheless, we have a duty, today more than ever, to ring the alarm about its future and path.”

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