Greece is becoming a leading power in the Balkans and the East Mediterranean, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday evening, addressing a SYRIZA party meeting at the Alexandrio Sports Hall in Thessaloniki.
Speaking of the city's long tradition in the cohabitation of different cultures and traditions, Tsipras said that the city "will not become the city of extreme rightists and hate. Thessaloniki and Macedonia will not turn back. "It’s others who led the country into the adventure of the memoranda and into bankruptcy," the premier said, placing Greece at the tail end of global developments. "We are promoting it into a leading power in the Balkans and the Northeast Mediterranean," he stressed, adding that he will not allow critics to turn the country back to times of division.
Many, he said, cast doubt on commitments he outlined at the Thessaloniki International Fair when his government came to power about taking the country out of austerity and the memoranda. "Nobody can doubt the fact the government took the noose off the country's and people's neck" and brought it out of the bonds of austerity and loan memoranda, he noted.
Acknowledging that it wasn't guaranteed the government would succeed, he said that today he felt justified, despite many naysayers and those who accused the government of having no experience governing. "We did not surrender to creditors, or big interests. We fought, we bled, but we opened paths," he said, and the August completion of the fiscal adjustment program was not presented as a gift, it was earned through the Greek people's sacrifices.
Addressing directly the controversy created about the name issue agreement between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Tsipras said that the Prespes Agreement "puts an end to the counterfeiting of Greek history and (...) to the offensive appropriation of ancient Greek Macedonia."
The prime minister asserted that the Agreement "ends completely and irrevocably the issue opened by the nationally irresponsible stance of earlier Greek governments that led to the global recognition of our neighboring country with its present constitutional name, as 'Republic of Macedonia'."
Only when FYROM "completes in full all of its obligations under the Prespes Agreement, will it become member to international institutions and be recognized globally under its new name, which it will establish through constitutional reform," Tsipras said, referring to the country's change in name (North Macedonia) currently in process. The name issue was opened by other governments and remained unresolved for decades, "like a festering wound poisoning the whole area; at some point it had to heal," he stressed, adding that his government had "the courage to proceed" guided by a sense of responsibility and patriotism.
The PM spoke extensively about patriotism and false patriotism, accusing the governments of main opposition party New Democracy and of PASOK of "turning the country back decades in foreign policy" and of "showing a monumental incompetence in great issues," hiding behind nationalism to justify their lack of strategic planning in the area.
He also reviewed his government's achievements, especially in health insurance and pensions, and concluded, "Our vision is clear: We want to change Greece."