Greek PM: Europe must unite to tackle inequalities

Alexis Tsipras says European nations need to work together to create a more open and democratic Europe

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants European nations to unite to tackle inequalities and marginalisation across the continent. He also dismissed the idea that countries can address these issues without working together as “appalling and delusional”. 

Speaking to an audience at London Business School (LBS), Tsipras said: “Unemployment, poverty, inequalities and marginalisation are part of our European reality. And we need answers. We need policies to address them, because they are far removed from the European ideals that brought us together.

“Some might say, ‘Let Europe and its institutions crash and burn. Each one of us can face those issues alone. We can even hide in our shells and watch the others stumble.’ This thought is both appalling and delusional.

“It’s appalling because it forces the clock of history to turn back to our most troublesome period [the aftermath of World War One], when each nation tried to impose its will on other countries. An era that brought agony and despair to the people of Europe. It’s delusional, because in this era of globalisation everything is intertwined: markets, trade, industry and, of course, people.”
Tsipras called for the European Union (EU) to be reformed to create a more open and democratic Europe that sweeps away the “tidal wave of right-wing populism and isolationism”.   

“In order to block the prevalence of chauvinism, racism and xenophobia in Europe, we need a fundamental renewal of EU institutions and decision-making processes,” he said during the LBS event ‘In Conversation with H.E. Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic’. 

“We need to open the doors of our institutions and let in a breath of fresh air. We have to think of ways to render these institutions accountable. Without accountability there can be no true democracy.”

The statesman added that greater solidarity in Europe would give nations the platform to combat unemployment, provide more welfare services to society’s most vulnerable and invest further in research and development. 

On Brexit, Tsipras said he respected the UK’s decision to leave the EU but strongly disagreed with it. He added that Greece was committed to helping shape the new face of Europe after years of economic turmoil that started in 2009 for the Greeks.  

The Greek economy grew by 1.4% in 2017, with greater growth expected this year after hitting 2.3% in the first quarter. Foreign direct investment into Greece reached €4 billion (£3.5 billion) last year – the highest amount since 2008. 

While Greek trade flourishes, manufacturing is growing steadily and the banking sector is stable, according to Tsipras. Tourism, one of Greece’s strongest sectors, is also thriving with 32 million visitors expected to visit the country in 2018. 

Unemployment has fallen by 7% since 2015, with 350,000 new jobs created. The number of people without jobs peaked at 27% (1.5 million) in 2014 as Greece’s economy struggled to bounce back from the global financial crisis that began six years earlier.   

“We’re on a steady path to tackle the horrendous consequences of reckless austerity and recession [in Greece],” Tsipras said. “Our brighter days are still to come. After a substantial decision on debt relief by the Eurogroup, Greece is now ready to access the capital markets again – and again stand on its feet.”