Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tore into his European Union allies on Thursday, pledging to “put an end once and for all” to the EU’s austerity policies.
In a defiant first speech to his left-wing parliamentary group after returning empty-handed from a European tour, Tsipras said Athens was no longer open to being told what to do.
“Greece won’t take orders any more, especially orders through emails,” he said. “Greece is no longer the miserable partner who listens to lectures to do its homework. Greece has its own voice”.
In an apparent reference to the tough stance taken by the European Central Bank and others, Tsipras said: “Greece cannot blackmailed because democracy in Europe cannot be blackmailed.”
Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, have been crisscrossing Europe to win support from partners for their plan to win debt relief and end austerity policies but have so far received little other than warnings to avoid reneging on commitments under the country’s existing bailout program.
But they have received little if any concrete support.
Instead, they ran into a concrete wall. The European Central Bank announced late Wednesday evening that it would stop Greek banks from being able to use the country’s government debt as collateral for loans. Instead, Greece now has to use emergency measures to borrow. It was a move many see as a shot across the bow for European politicians.
Then, Thursday morning, Varoufakis had what seemed to be a tense meeting with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble.
“We did not even agree to disagree,” Varoufakis said in the press conference after the meeting, contradicting his host, before comparing to the current economic situation in Greece to Weimar Germany.
“Germany should understand the most what it’s like to be stuck in a gruesome deflation and debt crisis … When I go home today, I will go home to a country where the 3rd biggest party is not a neo-Nazi but a Nazi party,” he said as Schaeuble looked on.
Tsipras, on the other hand, seemed to think that he got something out of his trip.
“In only a week we won allies that we haven’t won in the last five years of the crisis,” he said.
The new government’s rhetoic has been all over the place since the radical leftist Syriza party came to power two weeks ago. They continue to insist they won’t negotiate or take orders, but seem to know they will have to eventually.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou)