ATHENS – Little more than a week into Greece’s reign holding the symbolic European Union Presidency, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said his shaky coalition government will survive May elections for the European Parliament and launched a new attack on the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party he said is dangerous to the country and Europe.
With pressure growing from international lenders over unresolved reforms and a gaping, and likely growing, 1.4 billion euro hole in the 2014 budget, Samaras insisted Greece is on target to meet fiscal goals and that there will be a primary surplus, market to the markets and beginning of a recovery this year.
That came amid media reports that envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) won’t come back to Athens this week as originally planned because there’s been no progress in stalled negotiations, squeezing the government while it’s in the EU spotlight.
Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, is due to meet on Jan. 11 with his partner and Deputy PM/Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist chief, to talk about what to do and plan strategy as well as discuss growing political unrest, more corruption scandals, escaped terrorists and other domestic problems plaguing the government.
At a press briefing for foreign correspondents on Jan. 10, Samaras said New Democracy and PASOK won’t be repudiated in the European Parliament elections as SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras predicted.
“The pro-European parties will do very well in the elections and my party will do well,” Samaras said. If not, he said there was no way his party would set up a grand coalition with its mortal political enemy SYRIZA, which opposes the terms of two bailouts of $325 billion from international lenders and the austerity measures that have worsened a deep recession.
Samaras said that SYRIZA is an “out-and-out anti-European party” and accused it of having a “schizophrenic” approach to policy. “It says one thing about the euro when abroad and another when addressing Greek citizens,” he said.
He earlier had blistered SYRIZA for not speaking out about the escape of Christodoulos Xeros, a convicted November 17 terrorist which Samaras’ government had granted a furlough only to see the dangerous criminal fail to return. He was the second terrorist in six months to walk away while given a vacation from prison.
The feud led to the loss for SYRIZA of one of its most prominent members in Parliament, Petros Tatsopoulos, who said that indeed there were people in the party, a motley collection of anarchists, Communists, extreme-leftists and others, who had sympathy for violence and terrorists.
Tsipras, who had criticized Samaras and Venizelos for ejecting lawmakers who disagree with them, promptly booted Tatsopoulos from the party. Tatsopoulos remains in Parliament as an Independent, dropping the number of SYRIZA members from 72 to 71.