Europe must abandon austerity policies and convene a summit to make Greece’s debt sustainable and return the country to growth, said Alexis Tsipras, the nation’s main opposition leader.
“Our strategy, if we were to be elected in Greece, is to cancel austerity measures, cancel the memorandum of austerity,” Tsipras, who heads the Syriza party, told Bloomberg Television in New York on Jan. 25. “We must have a restructuring of Greece’s debt and renegotiation of the loan agreement.”
Tsipras said a European conference similar to one held in 1953, which brought debt relief to Germany, is necessary to solve the region’s crisis. It should accompany a plan such as the one proposed by former U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall in 1947, which channeled American aid to help rebuild Europe after World War II, that would revive economic growth in Greece and southern Europe, he said. The 38-year-old Tsipras led Syriza to a second-place finish in inconclusive elections in May on an anti-austerity platform, stoking concern about Greece’s future in the 17-nation eurozone. The party finished second in repeat elections a month later that saw the first-place New Democracy party, led by Antonis Samaras, go on to form a coalition government.
Four polls published on Jan. 26 and Sunday showed New Democracy with an edge of between 0.4 percent and 1.7 percent over Syriza, or “Coalition of the Radical Left.” Tsipras said austerity policies have been disastrous for the Greek economy, which is set to contract for a sixth year in 2013 with unemployment at a record high. Greece’s government has implemented budget cuts and economic reforms to tame a fiscal deficit that has led to bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece won’t be ejected from the euro if it abandons austerity policies and demands changes to its bailout agreements, he said. “Nobody can estimate who needs who most, but the certainty is that if Greece leaves or if they decide to eject Greece, it will be a total disaster for the euro and would be a step backward for the global economy,” Tsipras said. “If a country can go to Brussels and say ‘enough is enough with these irrational policies,’ I do think their reaction will in fact be more measured and they will agree to have a dialogue, a renegotiation.”