ATHENS -- Addressing main opposition SYRIZA's Central Committee for Restructuring on Saturday, the party's leader Alexis Tsipras launched an all-out attack on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government on several fronts, from the Novartis scandal investigation to economic policy.
The committee was meeting to discuss current developments as the party heads toward its next congress, with the meeting held in the Olympic Fencing Centre and all distancing protocols to protect against spreading coronavirus observed.
Tsipras referred to recent events in the parliamentary probe into the Novartis investigation, calling on the prime minister "to not turn political life into a quagmire."
"Yesterday we had damning news about the Novartis case. The company was forced to settle out of court with the U.S. government, admitting that at the time of the Samaras' government it had corrupted Greek officials...but instead of the news being that it had paid 310 million euros for corruption and kickbacks in the period of the Samaras government, the news was, in triumphant tones: Novartis has settled, there is no more scandal," Tsipras said, adding that what was treated as a scandal in the United States and throughout the world "is a conspiracy and not a scandal in Greece."
Tsipras also blamed Mitsotakis, personally, for the economic crisis and the country's prospects in the wake of the pandemic: "I must be honest, I did not imagine that in less than a year, Mr. Mitsotakis could have dealt such a major blow to the prospects of a country that for five years we fought to extricate from a huge economic and social crisis." He noted that the government had just announced a 16 pct recession in the first quarter of the year and between 10-12 pct on an annual basis, "without assuming the slightest responsibility for this fact."
"These are inconceivable figures, which we did not even see during the first harsh years of the memorandums. Beyond the figures, what is the current reality of the country? Businesses that are trying to stand on their feet without any support and without liquidity. Businesses that did not open after the lockdown and thousands that are battling not to suffer the same fate this winter. Empty islands. Workers fired en masse. Hospitals that are falling part," he added.
He accused the government of being a "paper circus" that was only interested in managing its image, adding that "there is one sector in which they excel, the sector of propaganda".
For SYRIZA, he added, the top priority and obligation was to put a stop to the destruction, while he outlined the main thrusts of the new social contract that the party is proposing, saying these would focus on production, labour, the social state, engaging the younger generation in politics, the environment and rights.
He highlighted the need to create a stronger foundation for the tourist industry based on a sustainable strategy rather than short-term and easy profits, as well as turning to other productive sectors in industry, agrifood, IT, innovation and the social economy.
Tsipras emphasised the need to protect labour rights, including for remote working, and for strong state welfare and health systems, as well as the urgent need for action on the climate crisis "that is not coming but already here".
On the issue of rights, SYRIZA's leader said that a modern European state of the 21st century cannot discriminate based on sex, colour, origin or sexual orientation, nor treat the children of migrants and refugees born in the country as second-class citizens while criminalising protest and democratic freedoms.
On the process of restructuring the party, he noted that Saturday's meeting was an important symbolic step as it ratified the decision that "Progressive Alliance is more than a subtitle but an integral part of what we aim to accomplish."
He emphasised the need to open up the party and bring in "new fellow fighters," from among those who had distinguished themselves through their work in their communities and careers.
"We also need new ways to communicate and intervene, gain access to hundreds of thousands of people that have turned their backs on what are considered the traditional media," he said, while emphasising that the main thing was "not to be afraid of changing and evolving."